UPDATE: 911 calls, NTSB report released in Chatsworth fatal airp - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: 911 calls, NTSB report released in Chatsworth fatal airplane crash

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MURRAY COUNTY, GA (WRCB) -

UPDATE:  We are learning more about a North Georgia plane crash that killed 4 people July 1.

The NTSB released a preliminary report on the crash Tuesday morning. The plane was headed from Tuskegee, Alabama to an airport in McMinn County when it went down, killing two children and their grandparents.

According to the report, problems likely began before the plane took off. The pilot could not get the engines to start, but declined an offer from a technician to help. The report shows the pilot chalked the problem up to heat. After charging the plane's batteries for a few hours the plane was able to take off, but crashed roughly 200 miles later.

On the evening of July 1st, calls flooded the Murray County 911 center with one report.

Caller 1: "I just saw an airplane or something explode and fall out of the sky into the woods."
 
Caller 2: "I just saw a small plane disintegrate and crash."

Callers were reporting something falling out of the sky.

 Dispatcher: "A plane?!"
 Caller: "Yes!  There's a (inaudible) going through and I heard it kind of low."

 Caller: "It was a small plane. Like a small passenger plane."
 Dispatcher: "It wasn't a toy plane?"
 Caller: "No! It come all to pieces."

Dispatchers and callers would later learn it was a Piper PA 23 twin engine airplane, carrying grandparents and 2 of their grandchildren to McMinn County. All four died in the crash.

"Someone's purse fell on the roof of my well house," Jessica Smith called into 911.

After calling 911, Smith found pieces of the plane around her home.

"It was really far away so I'm not sure what happened," Smith told the dispatcher, "I heard it before I saw it."

According to the NTSB report, the pilot was not receiving radar services. He was also not communicating with air traffic control during the flight or when the crash happened. When the plane hit a thunderstorm and all contact was lost.

The pilot, Dexter Lee Gresham, was not instrument rated, meaning he did not have the training required to fly in poor visibility.
 
Witnesses described hearing the crash as a thunderstorm approached.

 Background: "I know y'all think this is crazy."
 Caller: "I seen it disintegrate."

Debris from the plane could be found a mile away. The fuselage, cockpit, cabin, and engines were all destroyed.

 Caller: "I heard the boom! And big ole pieces was flying down!"

The wreckage was all recovered from Chatsworth earlier this month, it's being kept for further examination.
 
This the preliminary report, so some information could change.

The NTSB will release a final report once the investigation is complete.


PREVIOUS STORY: The NTSB has released the preliminary report of a plane crash that occurred in Chatsworth, Georgia earlier in July. 

The report states that around 4:45 p.m., a Piper PA-23-250 airplane was destroyed during an inflight breakup that killed the pilot and three passengers. The flight originated at Moton Field Municipal Airport in Tuskegee, Alabama and was destined for McMinn County Airport in Athens, Tennessee. 

Family members told the NTSB, the pilot and his family were returning from a weekend trip. Witnesses at the departure airport recalled servicing the airplane in the morning. The plane was fueled with 45 gallons of aviation gasoline, the pilot and the passengers boarded the plane. The pilot then unsuccessfully attempted to start the engines and after about 5-7 minutes a service technician asked if he needed assistance. The pilot declined and said the plane does that when it gets too hot. The pilot tried to start the engines a few more times before asking the service technician if he had a battery charger. The technician told the pilot that he did not have a battery charger and offered the use of the airport vehicle to charge the battery. The pilot connected battery cables from the vehicle's battery to the airplane's battery and again tried start the engines, with no success. One of the field tenants offered the pilot use of a battery charger. The airplane was towed into a hangar and the charger was connected. The gauge on the charger displayed that the battery would take 2 hours to charge. The pilot and his family decided to get something to eat while they waited for the battery to charge. When the pilot and his family returned, they boarded the airplane and both engines were started; he taxied to the runway and departed about 6 p.m.

The report says according to information obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the pilot was not receiving radar services, nor was he in communication with air traffic control while en route or at any time during the accident field. Radar data showed a target consistent with the airplane crash heading northeast when it encountered a boundary of advancing thunderstorms from the northwest. Information shows from the radar data that the airplane penetrated the thunderstorm radar contact was lost. 

Witnesses in Chatsworth said they watched as the thunderstorm approached the area, it was not raining at the time but could hear thunder in the distance. As they continued to watch they heard a loud "boom" and saw pieces of the airplane and personal belongings falling out of the clouds. A short time after, one of the witnesses stated that they watched as the airplane came "tumbling and spinning" out of the sky. 

The NTSB report says, the wreckage was scattered over a large area that included very dense vegetation. The debris field was about 1 mile in length, oriented toward 030° true. The first components located along the debris field were fragments of the fuselage. Additional components located along the debris path included fragments of the right and left wing assembly. The left engine remained attached to a section of the left wing assembly and the right engine was separated from the wing and was at the end of the debris path. The fuselage came to rest near the wings. The fuselage, cockpit, cabin section, empennage and engines were destroyed.

The wreckage was recovered from the site and retained for further information


PREVIOUS STORY: The two children killed in a plane crash in Murray County, Georgia were laid to rest on Saturday.

Services for 10-year-olds Austin Day and Kinsley Wilson were held at a funeral home in Corinth, Mississippi.

Family members told Channel 3 a memorial service for the two adults killed in the crash, Dexter Gresham, and his wife, MJ Yarbrough, will be next Saturday at 2 p.m. in Lawrenceville, Georgia. 


PREVIOUS STORY:  Murray County Sheriff Gary Langford confirms the second engine from a deadly plane crash over the weekend has been found.

The engine was found about 100 yards north of the crash site off Piney Hill Road in a wooded area with rough terrain.

READ MORE | FAA documents show pilot in plane crash was overdue for medical exam

Sheriff Langford says it was found around 12:30 p.m. after the NTSB sent a flight map to the Sheriff’s Office that helped deputies find the engine.

The NTSB has been notified and is in the process of getting the engine.

The crash killed four people on July 1.

READ MORE | Friends remember couple who died in plane crash

If anyone finds debris they believe is from the crash in their yard, they are asked not to touch it and to immediately call the Murray County Sheriff's Office at (706)-695-4593.

Stay with WRCBtv.com for updates to this story.


PREVIOUS UPDATE: The Murray County coroner’s office has released the name of the four people who died in a plane crash Saturday evening as:

  • Dexter Lee Gresham 55 years old, of Etowah, TN.
  • Mary Jo Yarbrough 61 years old, of Etowah, TN.
  • Two children aboard the aircraft were brother and sister Austin Day, 10 and Kinsley Wilson, also 10. The two children were Yarbrough’s grandchildren and were from Corinth, MS.

PREVIOUS STORY: NTSB and FAA officials are continuing their investigation into a deadly plane crash in Murray County.

Sunday, officials looked at debris that was scattered around homes and in fields.

"It was so loud and it didn't sound like a normal plane," said Jessica Smith, who says she witnessed the crash, "It did sound like something was wrong." It was that loud sound that prompted Smith to walk out her front door, and when she did she saw something she'll never forget.

"It went BOOM! And literally, stuff flew everywhere!" Smith recalled looking at the sky.    

Investigators said a twin-engine Piper PA 23 "broke up" mid-air.

The plane seats 5 people. Four people died in the crash, their identities are not being released right now. Investigators say there could be another person.

Clothes, pieces of the plane, and debris were scattered across the area of Piney Hills Drive and neighboring streets.

One engine from the plane is still missing.

"The owner of the plane, his flight log, was in the backyard," said Smith.

NTSB investigators said they will use that flight log to learn more about the pilot and maintenance history of the plane.

As Smith discovered items around her home she said she's overwhelmed with sadness.

NTSB officials said the investigation will continue for a few days.
 
If anyone finds debris they believe is from the crash in their yard, they are asked NOT to touch it and to immediately call the Murray County Sheriff's Office.


PREVIOUS STORY: NTSB and FAA officials are investigating a deadly plane crash in Murray County, Georgia.

Murray County Sheriff Gary Langford said four people died in the crash that happened on Piney Hills Road at 4:44 p.m.

Langford told Channel 3 it was a twin engine Piper PA-23 that went down.

Officials said the victims are from Tennessee. Right now, it's unclear which airport the plane was coming from and where the four people were heading to on Saturday.

At the time of the crash, Langford said the conditions included heavy rain, strong wind, and lightning.

"Most of the people are telling us that the plane did come apart in mid-air and from what we've found at the scene, that's evidently what had happened," Sheriff Gary Langford of the Murray County Sheriff's Office said.

He said the wings and engine were separated from the plane. The cockpit was the only part of the plane still intact. 

Langford said this is the second crash he's responded to in his time as sheriff. He said the debris from the crash spans a five mile radius.

"We've got a debris field. We've got some from south of this area where we're at now. We've got some from the east of it. Some from the north of it. The debris area is pretty big," Sheriff Langford said.

Right now, investigators are not releasing the identities of the victims.


PREVIOUS STORY: The Murray County Sheriff confirms to Channel 3 there has been a plane crash in Ramhurst.

The Federal Aviation Administration said that a Piper PA-23 went down at 4:44 p.m.

It happened off of Old 411 South near Piney Hill Road. It's unclear if anyone was hurt.

The FAA said they will investigate and the NTSB will determine the cause of the crash. 

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