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Weather may have been factor in fatal plane crash
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Rescue workers begin to leave the site of Monday night’s plane crash in Dawson County after verifying only one person was aboard the Piper Malibu that took off in New Jersey enroute to Dekalb Peachtree Airport. - photo by NAT GURLEY

DAWSONVILLE— Authorities say a single-engine plane on its way to DeKalb-Peachtree Airport in Chamblee lost radar and radio contact Monday night before crashing in a heavily wooded area of Dawson County, killing the pilot.

Officials say weather may have been a factor.

The Piper Malibu PA-46 departed from Morristown, N.J., Municipal Airport and came down near 1549 Auraria Road off Ga. 400 before 7:30 p.m., according to Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen. The pilot, whose name still has not been released, was the only one aboard.

“We cannot release any information on the pilot as of this time,” said Heidi Moats of the National Transportation Safety Board during a news conference Tuesday evening.

“However, we can give some details as to the nature of the crash.”

According to Moats, who is the active investigator in charge, the plane left New Jersey around 4:30 p.m. Monday using a special flight plan that requires the pilot to meticulously evaluate weather. Weather in Dawsonville that night was foggy with light rain.

The plane lost radar and radio contact at around 7:15 p.m., and the wreckage was located a short time later. Debris was located in a 1,000-yard spread around the crash scene.

The NTSB has collected all pieces of the plane to try to reconstruct the vehicle to determine the cause of the crash.
The NTSB is estimating about one week to prepare a detailed report of the incident.

The FAA will provide the aircraft registration after local authorities confirm the pilot’s information, though Bergen said the aircraft is registered to a Georgia entity.

Dawson County Emergency Management Agency Director Billy Thurmond said authorities were notified by the FAA that a distress call had been made from an aircraft in the area about 7:20 p.m. Monday, shortly after air traffic controllers lost contact.

Several residents in the area also called the 911 center with reports that a plane may have crashed nearby, according to Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle.

“One man said he heard the plane sound like it lost power before he thought it crashed,” he said.

Within minutes, first responders from Dawson, Forsyth and Lumpkin counties arrived and shut down Auraria Road.

Sheriff’s spokesman Maj. Tony Wooten said debris was scattered along the road. The plane’s fuselage was found a short time later in a wooded area behind a home.

“Officers arrived, found the debris in the roadway that was consistent with an airplane crash, and a search and rescue mission began,” he said.

The Georgia State Patrol and the Department of Natural Resources also assisted in the search.

Authorities remained on site throughout the night and into Tuesday to secure the scene.

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