3 killed in small airplane crash in SC neighborhood - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Pilot reported mechanical issues before crash

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HARTSVILLE, SC (WIS) -

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board will be in Hartsville for several days, working to piece together what happened leading up to a plane crash that killed three people Saturday.

Witnesses told investigators the aircraft was flying for most of the afternoon before crashing.

"There are a number of things that we have been looking at today including the weather conditions at the time, the systems on the aircraft which includes a flight control system," NTSB Air Safety Investigator Todd Gunther said. "Also the landing gear system on the aircraft and the electronics on the aircraft; we are also looking at the structure on the airplane to make a determination whether or not the aircraft was complete and in one piece when it came to rest here across from us."

Authorities received the call that the plane had crashed around 7 p.m. between two houses about one mile southeast of the Hartsville Regional Airport.

The plane struck two trees and caught on fire after impact, Gunther said.

Darlington County Coroner Todd Hardee identified the three men as 29-year-old Joseph Melton Loflin II and his father-in-law, 61-year-old George Thomas Rogers, both of Society Hill; and 75-year-old Leslie Bradshaw of Hartsville.

"It's a devastating loss to us," Hardee said. "These were wonderful people, just fine pillars of our community. It's a devastating loss, not only for the family but for us and for this community."

According to records from the Federal Aviation Administration, the airplane was a fixed wing single-engine Lancair IV-P that was built from a kit and registered to Rogers.

"What we know so far is it is an experimental amateur built aircraft licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration in the experimental category," Gunther said. "It was built by the builder, he is however not the original owner. It originally started as a kit owned by somebody else which he purchased and completed."

The experimental designation has been in existence for more than five decades, according to the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA).

"It defines aircraft's that are used for non-commercial, recreational purposes such as education or personal use," according to the EAA. "Under FAA regulations, if individuals build at least 51 percent of an aircraft, it can be registered in the amateur-built/homebuilt category. They are available in kits, where some of the airplane is already fabricated, or plans where the builder manufactures all the parts and assembles them."

Currently, more than 32,000 amateur-built/homebuilt aircraft's are licensed by the FAA, according to the EAA.

Gunther said those on the plane were communicating with cell phones and reported possible mechanical issues before the crash.

"There was no communication with any air traffic control facility however, there was some communication with other individuals with cellular telephone," Gunther said. "Those communications were regarding a possible problem with the landing gear on the aircraft and that's something we are still sorting out."

Gunther said investigators will be on the site for three days to do field work, and then they will return to Washington D.C. where a preliminary report will be released in 7 to 10 days.

A final report will be released in nine months to a year.

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