Read witness accounts of the NMB plane crash
Wed, 19 Jan 2011 05:23:33 GMT —
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigation a plane crash in North Myrtle Beach that killed the pilot and a woman on the ground.
It happened about 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Briarcliff RV Resort, near the Myrtle Beach Mall.
The Horry County Coroner's Office says the woman who died is Eve Sullivan, 70, from New Hampshire. She and her husband were inside a camping trailer that was hit by the plane. Her husband survived, but has serious injuries.
The identity of the pilot who died has not been released. The Horry County Coroner's Office says they expect to release his name between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. Wednesday.
Mike Runser was there when the plane went down. He recorded video of the aftermath. Click here for that video.
"You could really feel the intense heat, you know, coming from the fire. A lot of cracking and popping. And you know, whether it were to spread to another Winnebago, something might blow up, so there was a lot fear."
North Myrtle Beach Spokesman Pat Dowling says a pilot was practicing touch and go landing maneuvers at Grand Strand Airport, about 2 1/2 miles from the crash site.
The plane was reportedly registered to an LLC in Massachusetts and had been parked at Grand Strand Airport for the past two months.
Witnesses say they heard a loud engine engine noise and then a crash, smoke and flames.
"All we heard was a crash, which we thought was a motorcycle from the road, and then from my kitchen window I saw the flames, and I knew something hit. We didn't know what it was, and everything started blowing," said Gale Moore.
"I heard the plane coming, and I just glanced up, and it caught my eye, and I said, 'It's going to hit that tree.' It hit the tree, and it glanced and hit the roof of that one trailer, tore the roof off," said Jay Smith.
Some folks in nearby campers grabbed water hoses or anything else they could find to try to help out in whatever way they could.
"Right after I ran out, I grabbed a fire extinguisher, tried to put the fire out. And everybody telling me to get back and just constantly explosions was going off," said Bernard Swann.
Witnesses describe a tragic, chaotic scene, one that will stay with them a long time.
A number of RV's were parked nearby, they weren't damaged. A Lutheran church and school are within a short walk away from the crash scene. The children inside were described as shaken, but unhurt. Many of those on the scene said as bad as it was, it could have been far worse.
The RV park where the crash happened also has scores of permanent homes. Many of those residents witnessed the crash and the aftermath.
First, they heard it, though, they weren't sure what *it* was.
One witness described it this way. "I thought it was a motorcycle."
Another said, "We heard the sound like a racing car. It was, with no muffler on it, very loud."
Patsy Woodard lives just 100 yards from the crash site. "They were going to do some work out here on the cement, and I thought maybe somebody was out there working on it. That's what I really thought."
But what happened next, happened "in an instant," as Vaughn Ritter described it.
"All of a sudden, it exploded," said Bernard and Vivian Swann.
"The next thing I heard was the explosion and the crash." said Joe Turner who was parked next door to the crash.
"All of a sudden, I heard, boom!... I jumped up and came to the door, and I saw flames shooting up and things going off," described Patsy Woodard.
"I ran to the door to see, and by that time, it was all in flames. My wife and I ran out to try and help, but there wasn't anything you could do," recalled Vaughn Ritter. "If you can imagine, it was like a battlefield with the plane going off. The fires going off. The truck was - the truck fire started after the plane crash fire, then it exploded, and then the gas tank exploded, and it was a tremendous explosion, flames through the trees there."
Parked in the camper right next door, Joe Turner and his wife didn't just hear it, they didn't just see it, they felt it. "It was a tremendously loud explosion. It knocked, in fact the explosion knocked my wife down inside the camper... I told her to go to the back of the camper because the flames were still shooting everywhere and stuff was still exploding."
According to witnesses, the battlefield scene that Turner describes lasted several minutes.
What made this worse for Vaughn Ritter, isn't just what he heard, or saw, or felt. This was something he has dreaded. "We have low flying aircraft. I do worry about it. But this was different - it was fast, and had an impact to it. It was unbelievable."