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Gainesville man IDd as pilot in Thursday plane crash
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Officials inspect the plane crash site Thursday afternoon along Palmour Drive near Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport.

A Gainesville man was identified Monday as the person killed in a single-engine plane crash near Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport last week.

Lawrence Youhanaian, 74, was flying the 1976 Rockwell Commander 112 Thursday morning when the plane crashed on Palmour Drive, said Cpl. Kevin Holbrook, Gainesville police spokesman.

Passenger Kelly Chandler, 50, a Gainesville resident and flight instructor at Lanier Flight Center, was seriously injured in the crash, Holbrook said.

Chandler was flown to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. Grady doesn’t disclose patient conditions, spokeswoman Denise Simpson said.

“He’s still in intensive care on the respirator,” said Troy Wheeler, Lanier Flight Center president.

Chandler has served as an instructor at the center since 2007.

“More people have learned to fly with Kelly than anybody on my staff,” Wheeler said. “He’s highly experienced.”

Chandler says on the center’s website that “working and flying here at Lanier Flight Center has been an awesome life-changing experience which I will cherish and continue for years to come.”

Wheeler also knew Youhanaian, who has family in California.

“Larry was one of our first customers when we opened in 2003,” he said. “He learned to fly, then went on to buy his own airplane in 2006.”

Youhanaian’s plane was based at Lee Gilmer, Wheeler said.

Youhanaian was a member of Commander Owners Group, a group of Commander owners and enthusiasts, joining in April, said Glenn Mores, the group’s president.

“We didn’t have an opportunity to interact with Mr. Youhanaian either electronically in our forums or at any of our live fly-in events,” Mores said.

Still, “we are ... very saddened by his loss and we extend our condolences to his family,” he said. “We were grateful to hear that his passenger was helped to safety immediately after the accident and wish him a speedy recovery from his injuries.”

Mores added that his group hopes Chandler “will have some additional information as to exactly what went wrong on that flight.”

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash. A preliminary report is pending.

Keith Smith, spokesman for the Gainesville Fire Department, said the plane left the airport on Runway 29.

“As they started to (fly off), they had engine trouble and tried to turn around and come back,” he said.

Board spokesman Nicholas Worrell told The Times on Friday an investigator was working on recovery efforts, gathering eyewitness statements, reviewing any available video and photographic evidence and analyzing maintenance and pilot records to determine the cause of the crash.

“Anything that can help gather as much factual information as possible to help determine what caused the accident,” Worrell said.

Worrell said the investigator would likely conclude the on-scene portion of the investigation this past weekend, then move the wreckage to a private location for more analysis.

Authorities first learned about the Gainesville incident about 11:30 a.m. after hearing reports that a small plane had struck some power lines and crashed onto Palmour, which encircles much of the airport.

Upon arrival, emergency crews found one person was dead and the other had been pulled from the craft by a bystander, Flair Lee, whose workplace is near the crash site.