BUNCOMBE Co., N.C. (WSPA) – Authorities said two men were killed in a small plane crash in western North Carolina on Wednesday morning .
The N.C. State Highway Patrol said the plane crashed in a cornfield near the 300 block of Lower Brush Creek Road in Fairview, N.C.
The victims were identified as Malachy Dady Beckham Jr., 76, of Fletcher, N.C., and John Thomas Gaitskill, 72, of Hendersonville, N.C., by the Highway Patrol.
According to the Western North Carolina Pilots Association, Gaitskill had been a flight instructor since 1979. He began flying in 1975.
Gaitskill’s neighbor, Ted Kohankie, told 7-News Thursday that Gaitskill was a seasoned, meticulous pilot who loved to fly planes around the world; particularly in Europe and South Africa.
Kohankie added that he had flown with Gaitskill in the past.
“We found out that we were both in the Air Force and we both enjoyed airplanes,” Kohankie explained. “And he said, ‘You want to go flying?'”
Kohankie said Gaitskill took he and his wife in his plane to Virginia, to adopt two of their dogs from a breeder.
“My wife sat in the back seat holding this little guy that was 8 weeks old, and she loved it. And John flew us back.”
7-News tried to reach Gaitskill’s family Thursday, but no one answered the door at his address.
“When I heard about this crash, I thought no. I can’t believe it’s John,” said Kohankie.
As of Thursday evening, no one from Beckham Jr.’s family could be reached for comment.
Local, state and federal agencies responded to the scene Wednesday morning after the plane crash was initially reported.
NTSB Safety Investigator Adam Gerhardt said the two-seat, single-engine plane took off from the Six Oaks Airport and crashed about 0.75 miles from the take off point. The crash happened at about 10:30 a.m.
Gerhardt said the plane was a Rans S-6 experimental amateur build that would be used for personal flying.
He added that the NTSB is in the early stages of its investigation with a preliminary report expected within 10 days.
They will reportedly be investigating perishable evidence, such as fuel in fuel tanks, as well as looking at the pilots, the plane and the environment, such as weather conditions.
Gerhardt said determining probable cause could take 18-24 months.
The plane will be taken to a facility in Springfield, Tenn., according to Gerhardt.
The FAA issued the following statement:
“A Rans S-6 Coyote II light sport aircraft crashed in a cornfield one mile northeast of Six Oaks Airport in Asheville, N.C. at 10:42 a.m. Two people were on board. Contact local authorities for names and medical conditions. The FAA will investigate and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will determine the probable cause of the accident.”