FAA investigates fiery plane crash in Moneta

By C Craig
Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved

MONETA (WSLS 10) - A federal investigation is underway in Moneta after Sunday's fiery plane crash about a quarter-mile from the Smith Mountain Lake Airport.

The plane crashed down near Parkside Drive and caught on fire. The two passengers were taken to the hospital, one with severe burns.

Airport manager Michael Matta studied surveillance video of the accident. He said he thinks the pilot was trying to land and realized he was coming in too fast and too close to the end of the runway.

Matta explained, "At some point [he] realized he could make the landing and attempted what we call a go around. That's my speculation, but that's what I believe happened. And when in that process either he lost power in the engine which can happen once you put the throttles back forward."

Area neighbors said the airplane fell about 80 feet from the sky. On the way down, the plane sliced through some trees and skimmed over housetops.

"It made just a loud noise," said Wess Cooper. "I would say somewhere to an automobile crash...just a large balloon or something...just more of a pop."

A sound that echoed throughout the quiet neighborhood stopped Wess Cooper like others in their tracks. Calling 911, Cooper rushed to accident to find both passengers out of the aircraft and the pilot rolling on the ground.

"When he got out he was on fire," commented Cooper. "And, within about two-minutes of him getting out of the plane, the plane just exploded. I mean, it didn't started burning...it just suddenly exploded."

The plane was a 1967 single engine airplane. The FAA said the age of the aircraft was likely not a factor in the crash.

The pilot and passenger were initially treated at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. The pilot was later airlifted to Wake Forrest Baptist Medical Center for burn treatment after suffering from second and third-degree burns.

The victims names were not released.

The FAA is still investigating and said it could take months to figure out what caused the crash.

Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved