RIVERSIDE, W.Va. – Two people were killed Friday evening when a small plane crashed in eastern Kanawha County en route from Akron, Ohio to Spartanburg, S.C.
Confirmation of the deaths came after the plane’s wreckage was located near the Riverside community close to U.S. Route 60.
It took more than 90 minutes for emergency officials to find the wreckage of the single-engine plane that callers to Kanawha County’s Metro 911 first started reporting around 5 p.m.
Several eyewitnesses, across the Kanawha River in Pratt, watched the plane go down in tough terrain. A state police helicopter helped locate the crash area, about one mile from Route 60 and the river.
“Once they had a good idea of where it was going to be, then they were able to get there pretty quickly,” said Cpl. Brian Humphreys, spokesperson for the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department. “But that (was) based on a lot of spotty information at the start of it about where exactly this occurred.”
“Primarily, the big hurdle is the topography. It’s the land, the roll of it, the height of the mountains, the angle of the hills—those types of things are very difficult to traverse.”
The discovery was made shortly before 7 p.m. and first responders had to travel on foot to make it to the site.
Efforts to fully examine the crash area continued into Friday night. By 8 p.m., Kanawha County officials were securing the scene ahead of the anticipated arrival of investigators with the Federal Aviation Administration on Saturday morning followed by officials with the National Transportation Safety Board.
Kelley’s Creek resident Alayna Owsley, 13, saw the plane just before it went down.
“I was walking from my house to my mama’s house and I saw a plane and I heard it (putter) a little bit and it went up and down and then I heard it crash,” she told MetroNews.
Owsley said the engine appeared “smoky” right before the crash. She said she had never seen anything like it before.
“‘What just happened,’” she said she thought. “‘Is anyone dying or injured? How many people were killed?’”
According to the FAA, preliminary information indicated the plane that crashed was a Piper PA-32 plane that had departed from Akron Fulton International Airport on Friday afternoon and was bound for Spartanburg Downtown Memorial Airport.
The FAA confirmed two people were on board that flight. Those passengers were not being publicly identified on Friday night.
Emergency officials had been able to confirm earlier in the evening the single-engine plane dropped off the radar about 22 miles southeast of Yeager Airport around 5 p.m.
Humphreys said those at Charleston’s Yeager Airport were not responsible for tracking the plane at the time. “But they did see (it). One of the operators was watching that plane on his scope,” he said. He confirmed the last time the plane was known to be in flight was 4:52 p.m.
“They saw a rapid descent and that immediately was followed by 911 calls placed to the (Metro) 911 center.”