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WEST GARDINER -- Nearly a year after a wealthy technology tycoon and her 10-year-old son lost their lives in a fiery plane crash, federal investigators are still trying to pinpoint the cause of the accident.
Jeanette Symons, a 45 year-old business mogul and recreational pilot, died Feb. 1 after her Cessna Citation C-525 jet went down in West Gardiner. Her son, Balan, 10, also perished.
It is not uncommon for final crash reports to be released six months to a year after the event, said Jose Obregon, an investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board in Miami.
"We're still investigating the cause, and that final report will probably be released closer to the anniversary (of the crash)," Obregon said. "Everything will be addressed at that time."
Symons had two big passions in life, colleagues said: Her adopted children and flying planes.
Symons was considered a seasoned pilot. Friends and colleagues said she had 15 to 20 years of flying experience, and the Federal Aviation Administration indicated she was qualified to fly single- and multiple-engine aircrafts and could use instrument flight rules -- where a pilot relies on instruments to fly the aircraft instead of using vision.
Mother and son had spent a few days at Sugarloaf so Balan could attend a ski camp. The two planned to depart Maine from the Augusta State Airport on Feb. 1.
Although the plane was originally kept inside a hangar, Maine Instrument Flight officials said they made it clear to Symons the hangar was reserved for Colgan Air aircraft, a commercial airline, and that -- if one of those planes landed in Augusta -- her jet could be taken out of the hangar. It was.
The National Transportation Safety Board's preliminary report revealed Symons had a bumpy takeoff from Augusta in freezing rain.
Maine Instrument Flight officials said Symons declined help de-icing the Cessna.
After starting the jet, the preliminary report said, Symons neglected to turn on the airport's field lights -- standard procedure for a pilot taking off from an airport without an air-traffic-control tower.
She then started taxiing down the wrong runway and ran the plane through a ditch.
Shortly after takeoff, air-traffic control in Portland reported receiving a distress call from Symons, saying she had an on-board emergency involving one of the plane's three "attitude indicators."
Tim Donovan, a longtime friend and business associate of Symons, said the day after the crash that Symons was not one to take risks when it came to her children and flying.
"She wouldn't have left if she didn't think she could take off safely," Donovan said at the time. "Jeanette probably logged more hours than a commercial pilot."
Symons was well-known and respected by peers and competitors in the world of technology.
Her first endeavor, Ascent Communications Inc., was launched in 1989. Ten years later, the company, now with thousands of employees, sold itself to Lucent Technologies for $24 billion. Symons was not yet 40 years old at the time.
In 2001, Forbes Magazine named her the wealthiest woman in the United States younger than 40, with a personal worth of $347 million, exceeding actor Tom Cruise and pro golfer Tiger Woods.
Symons continued to develop technology and communications companies, including Zhone Technologies and Industrious Kid, the business she owned at the time of her death that focuses on integrating children into the technological world.
"She was ... a fabulous, hands-on mother," Donovan said the day after the deaths. "To hear of this accident is just devastating."
Donovan could not be reached for this article.
Symons' other adopted child, Jennie, is now 8 and is being raised by family members.
Meghan V. Malloy -- 623-3811,