DARLINGTON COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Several days after a fatal plane crash in Darlington County, the National Transportation and Safety Board has turned the crash scene over to the sheriff's office, and the wreckage to the plane owner's family.
Three men were confirmed dead in the small plane crash in Hartsville on Saturday, March 8.
The plane crashed in a neighborhood southeast of the Hartsville Regional Airport at around 6:40 p.m., officials said. Coroner Todd Hardee initially confirmed there were two fatalities, and Darlington County Sheriff's officials later confirmed a third fatality.
The victims were identified by Hardee as 61-year-old George Rogers from Society Hill, 29-year-old Josh Melton Loflin from Pelzer, and 75-year-old Leslie Bradshaw from Hartsville.
Find funeral information and links to the victims' online obituaries here: http://bit.ly/1g4rfxx
The National Transportation and Safety Board held a second news conference about the plane crash on Monday around 4 p.m.
Todd Gunther with the National Transportation Safety Board said Monday that there was a problem with the landing gear, and one of the men in the plane attempted to fix it before the plane went down.
"There was a cellular communication using text to some of the family members, and family has advised us one of things they were reporting was they had a landing gear problem," Gunther said.
The aircraft was made of carbon fiber, and there was a small fire when the plane went down, so a lot of evidence was compromised.
Gunther said at a Sunday news conference that the plane was an experimental amateur-built aircraft registered with the Federal Aviation Administration. The plane had a turbo-prop engine with 725-horsepower, and could seat four people. Three were on board at the time of the accident.
According to records from the FAA, the airplane, manufactured in 2002, was a fixed wing single-engine Lancair IV-P. A specialist familiar with this type of aircraft was heading to the site of the crash Monday evening.
Witnesses saw the plane flying in the Hartsville area for most of the afternoon, Gunther said.
The NTSB said there was not any communication between those on board with an official agency just before the crash, and the agency is not aware of a flight plan being filed.
The plane took off from Darlington County and attempted to land at the Hartsville airport, said Darlington County Sheriff Wayne Byrd. The plane was apparently having mechanical difficulties with its landing gear, and went down about 50 feet from homes in the Fox Hollow subdivision.
The NTSB did find evidence that there was fuel on board, and there was a post-impact fire, Gunther said. There was no fire on the plane while it was airborne. The engine was rotating at the time of impact with the ground, he added, and the aircraft struck two trees before coming to rest.
Reporter Jody Barr tweeted from the scene that the plane went down between two brick homes off Hollandia Park Circle. The homes do not appear to be damaged.
Emergency crews were on the scene within minutes of the crash, Barr stated, and firefighters doused the flames shortly after their arrival. According to Barr, the plane wreckage was covered, lights were put up, and recovery crews secured the scene for FAA and NTSB investigators.
Federal investigators spent Sunday looking at wind and weather conditions during the time of the crash, and looking to see if the plane was in one piece after landing or if it broke up before. Investigators also interviewed witnesses, airport personnel, and friends and family of those involved, Gunther said.
The NTSB was on the scene for several days, and headed back to Washington, DC to evaluate the evidence. In nine months to a year, a full report will be released about the accident investigation, but seven to 10 days from now we will get the preliminary report into the investigation.
"Then we will also be doing some follow up action with the aircraft looking for control run to determine if the flight control system was functioning correctly at the time," Gunther said.
Capt. Andy Locklair said the plane owner's family was responsible for removing the wreckage after NTSB examined the scene, and that a salvage company has removed it.
An autopsy was scheduled for all three men for Monday, March 10 in Newberry, SC, Hardee stated. The incident remains under investigation by the Darlington County Coroner's Office, the Darlington County Sheriff's Office, the NTSB and the FAA.