A man is dead after a plane crash in Monongalia County.
Emergency crews on scene said the pilot died when the small aircraft crashed on Chestnut Ridge across Interstate 68 from Coopers Rock around 10 o’clock Friday morning.
Monongalia County Sheriff Al Kisner says the man flying the plane was the only one on board. The plane was a Beechcraft King Air 90 registered to O.Z. Gas Aviation based out of Lewistown, Montana. The name of the pilot has not been released.
The twin turboprop plane departed a privately-owned airport in Tidioute, Pennsylvania and was due to arrive in Nemacolin, Pennsylvania just 15 minutes later. Sheriff Kisner says the pilot had dropped off some passengers at Nemacolin.
Reports that the plane had gone down in Monongalia County began trickling in around 10 a.m.
Monongalia County MECCA 911 Director Mike Wolfe says the plane struck the WV Public Broadcasting tower on Chestnut Ridge and debris hit the state emergency communication tower beside it. State communications were not affected Friday.
Sheriff Kisner said wreckage was in both Monongalia and Preston counties. The crash site was about 1.5 square miles, he said.
The FAA was initially on the scene. The National Transportation Safety Board will head up the investigation. Kisner said the cause of the plane’s descent is unclear.
"We don’t have a cause of the accident yet," Kisner said. "We don’t know why the plane went down, whether it was a mechanical error or if something happened to the pilot."
Kisner also said there is no indication why the pilot was in the Morgantown area.
The accident happened just more than a mile from the Sand Spring Campground where campers heard the plane go down.
"It was huge. It shook everything," Patricia Ruffner, of Greene County, Pa., said. "We didn’t know what had happened. We had no clue."
Her father, Jim Ruffner, said the family often hears large accidents on nearby Interstate 68, but this was much louder.
"That’s one of the loudest explosions I’ve heard in my life," he said.
Ruffner said the area around their campground filled with smoke and left the family wondering what had happened. Only minutes later, emergency vehicles rushed down Sand Spring Road, he said.
Earlier that morning, a plane was flying low nearby and appeared to be having trouble, Ruffner said. In fact, he made a comment about the plane to his son.
"We heard a plane prior to that, and I mentioned to him I said, ‘boy that thing doesn’t sound good like somebody may not be going to make it,’" Ruffner said. "I remember it sounded rough. It was long after that, the accident happened."
Ruffner said he did not know whether it was the same plane. He said the accident occurred about 30 minutes after he made the comment.