HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — A plane that crashed Wednesday in the Conway area leaving two people dead was experiencing engine issues, according to preliminary information from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Two people were on board the small plane that crashed Wednesday in a wooded area near McNeill Street in the Conway area, according to authorities. Barrie McMurtrie, 72, and Terry Druffell, 66, both died from injuries due to the crash, according to Darris Fowler with the coroner’s office.
Both McMurtrie and Druffell were from the Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, area, according to Fowler.
One of the people on board was listed as flight crew and the second was listed as a passenger, according to the FAA.
The plane crashed into a wooded area and caught on fire, according to the FAA.
The single-engine Piper P28R crashed about eight miles north of Myrtle Beach, according to the FAA. The FAA said the information is preliminary and subject to change.
The plane was registered to McMurtrie on June 8, according to FAA registration records.
Pilot Clayton Caldwell has more than 200 hours experience with that type of plane. He said an engine issue in low altitude with little room to recover is a pilot’s worst nightmare.
“Taking off and landing tends to be the area when most issues tend to happen,” Caldwell said. “It’s kind of a dangerous situation because you have to decide: is it safer to turn back toward the airport, or are you going to put yourself in a more dangerous situation by trying to turn back versus just spotting and looking out to find a safe place to land.”
Caldwell told News13 the plane is known for its value.
“Very popular choice for people who are training, for people who just want to get their first plane, or just people who want to get their complex endorsement,” Caldwell said. “Just a very, very popular plane, especially for the cost.”
Caldwell said the plane takes a “Complex Airplane Endorsement” on top of regular flight training because it has retractable landing gear.
Data from Flightradar24.com shows the plane left Myrtle Beach International Airport at 12:07 p.m. and was in the air for about 10 minutes before it crashed. The plane flew parallel to Highway 501 before making a left turn and crossing Highway 544. The plane then made a right turn and flew back across Highway 501, and then another right turn back south towards MYR.
In radio traffic on Broadcastify.com from Myrtle Beach International Airport obtained by News13, authorities are heard discussing the crash at about 12:15 p.m.
“I can see fire,” a person says. “It looks like they probably hit the trees short.”
Multiple people in the audio can be hard saying that they saw smoke.
“Multiple vehicles on scene,” someone said. “It doesn’t look good.”
Editor’s note: The air traffic audio below has been edited down to a condensed version of the full audio, which spanned a 30-minute period between noon and 12:30 p.m.
Keith Holloway, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, told News13 Wednesday afternoon in an email that the agency will be investigating the crash and expects to have an investigator at the scene late Wednesday or early Thursday.
According to the Holloway, the investigator will document the scene, examine the aircraft and gather information about air traffic communications, radar data and weather reports. The agency will also try to talk to witnesses and the request maintenance records of the aircraft and the medical records and flight history of the pilot.
“It is important to note that it is very early in the investigation,” Holloway said in a statement. “NTSB does not determine cause in the early part of the investigative process. This is considered the fact-gathering phase of the investigation. I suspect that [a] preliminary report may be available in about 10 business days. A typical NTSB investigation can take 12-24 months to complete and determine cause.”