4 dead in Gordon County plane crash

Four people were discovered dead among the wreckage of a small plane that disappeared from radar Saturday morning and crashed in a remote area of Gordon County.

Authorities said the four were the only ones aboard the Cessna Citation twin-engine jet, which disappeared about 10:10 a.m. The plane was last seen about 50 miles north of Atlanta in the vicinity of Gordon and Cherokee counties, FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said.

After hours of searching, the wrecked plane was discovered in a hilly area that is accessible only by foot, Gordon County Sheriff Chief Deputy Robert Paris told AJC.com.

“The plane was discovered in one of the most remote areas of our jurisdiction,” Paris said, calling the crash site terrain treacherous. “We had to go in in four-wheel drive vehicles and ATVs and we had to walk a long way after that. It’s only accessible by foot.”

The names of the three victims, three men and one woman, have not been released. Authorities are still working to positively identify them, Gordon County Deputy Coroner Christy Nicholson told reporters at a news conference Sunday.

It took more than 24 hours to locate all victims, she said.

According to Heidi Kemner, an air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, the jet departed from Atlanta Regional Airport-Falcon Field in Peachtree City about 9:45 a.m. and was headed for Nashville. It was snowing at the time, but it’s unclear if the weather was a factor in the crash.

“We will perform a formal weather study, and that will definitely be something we look into in this investigation,” she said during the news conference.

Investigators were expected to continue documenting the crash site before moving  to their office in Washington, D.C. It could be up to 18 months before a factual report is ready, Kemner said.

— Please return to AJC.com for updates.