Preliminary report sheds new light on deadly Hartsville plane crash

A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board on a deadly plane crash in Hartsville this month is shedding new light on what happened moments before the plane went down.

The small engine Lanceair Four aircraft left Darlington County Jetport on March 8 and later went down in a yard at a home off of Fox Hollow Drive, killing three men.

NTSB investigators believe the pilot George Rogers was having problems with the plane's landing gear before the crash. The preliminary report states the pilot had been receiving a "gear unsafe" indication before the wreck, according to witnesses.

Before the crash that day, witnesses said the pilot was working on the airplane and was "troubleshooting an electrical problem."

That afternoon, Rogers and a passenger flew around "the local area for some time," according to the report.

They landed at Hartsville Regional Airport and refueled the airplane. Then, Rogers flew solo back to the Darlington County Jetport. There, Rogers was joined by the same passenger from earlier and an additional passenger, and they took off.

A relative of Rogers got a text message from the pilot around 6:20 p.m. asking the relative to come to Hartsville Regional Airport "as the landing gear would not come down," according to the report.

17 minutes later, the relative got a text from Rogers that said "call 911."

That's around the time a witness observed the plane which was "low to the ground" passing him numerous times over a 15-minute period. On the last pass, the witness heard the airplane's engine running and saw the plane flying 600 to 700 feet above the ground.

He said the plane banked sharply to the left, pitched up to about 25 degrees nose up, then descended rapidly in a nose high altitude.

That's when the witness lost sight of the plane, and moments later, saw a large fire ball and smoke.

The report states the plane hit two trees before crashing to the ground, coming to rest next to a row of trees.

Investigators determined there was no evidence of any pre-impact structural failure.

After examining the landing gear system, they discovered the landing gear was in the down position while the nose landing gear was in the up position.

The left and right main landing gear were partially extended, and the left main landing gear leg was fractured into two pieces.

The preliminary report also reveals no flight plan was filed and "visual meteorological conditions prevailed."

Joseph Loflin, 29, and Leslie Bradshaw, 75, also died in the crash.