Posted by Rachel Leigh - email
DORCHESTER COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Four people died when a small plane bound for Florida crashed shortly after take-off, FAA officials say.
By mid-afternoon Wednesday, Dorchester County coroner Chris Nesbit had positively identified one of the four crash victims and believed to know the identity of two others. James Randolph "Randy" Hargenrater, Edwin Steeble, Peter Radding and a fourther member perished in the crash.
All three lived in the greater Charleston area.
The fourth member of the flight has not yet been identifed but is not believed to have been from the area.
Nesbit also said the four friends were headed to Fort Pierce, FL to pick up two other passengers before heading to the Bahamas for a ham radio convention there.
The plane, a twin engine Piper PA-23, took off from Summerville Airport's runway 24 before 6:30 am Wednesday. Authorities say the plane went down 50 yards beyond the runway with four people on board.
The Dorchester County Coroner said no positive IDs have been made of the bodies. The accident and fire has made visual recognition impossible so the coroner is gathering dental records of people believed to have been on the flight to confirm each passenger's identity.
"It's extremely severe. One of the propellers has not been located at this point. The engine is in a traverse position, upside-down, a lot of charred foliage around the site," said Jason Ward, the Dorchester County Administrator.
He called reports on the identities of passengers onboard at this point just conjecture, saying, "whoever is reporting a name at this point is just assuming."
"It was extremely dark and that's why it was difficult to locate" the crash site, Ward said.
The plane is registered to Peter Radding of North Charleston. Specifications say the plane can seat up to six people.
Typically flight plans from the Summerville airport would be filed with the FAA tower in Charleston, but authorities said they were not activated for this flight.
"If they had been filed, we would have known exactly who was taking off at 6:20, would have been pretty confident," Ward said.
When the plane crashed, "it was engulfed in flames," Ward said.
An explosion was heard just after the plane took off, according to a resident near the Jedburg airport.
Crews are bringing in loads of rocks to access the crash site and pull the plane out of the woods where it went down. The Old Fort and Pine Ridge Fire Departments were dispatched to the scene immediately after.
The bodies will be autopsied Thursday, according to the coroner.
Federal Aviation Administration officials are on scene, and National Transportation and Safety Bureau leaders are expected by Wednesday night.