It's common for residents near DeKalb-Peachtree Airport to hear the sounds of planes overhead. But West Hutchinson said he knew right away that this was different.
Sitting on his back porch Wednesday morning, Hutchinson heard the sound of a plane struggling to gain altitude.
“All of a sudden, I heard a really loud crack,” Hutchinson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It was obvious that the plane had crashed, because it was really loud and all of a sudden went immediately silent.”
The single-engine Piper-28 went down minutes after takeoff, slamming into the top floor of a DeKalb County townhouse and leaving two men dead.
The DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s Office on Thursday identified the victims as North Carolina residents Leslie Csanyi Jr., 59, who was piloting the plane, and Scott Robert Lowrie, 60. The owner of the plane was not on board, Channel 2 Action News confirmed.
Wreckage of the small aircraft was scattered over half a mile. The cause remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Hutchinson called 911, then got into his car and drove around looking for the plane. But he never saw smoke and couldn’t pinpoint where it went down. Arriving firefighters and police officers located the wreckage: The aircraft hit the Clairmont Hills Townhomes, in the area of I-85 and Clairmont Road.
Jared Hauck said he was at home when he heard a crash and quickly went outside, not sure what he would find. He was shocked to see gas pouring out of a building that had been hit by wreckage.
“And then I turned and I looked and the building next to me is completely destroyed,” Hauck told Channel 2 Action News. “It was obvious a plane had crashed into the unit next to mine. I was thinking, ‘Oh my god, I need to call the police.’”
Investigators quickly determined one person had died in the crash. Hours later, fire officials said a second man aboard the plane also died.
No one was inside the complex building at the time of the crash, and no other injuries were reported, according to DeKalb fire Capt. Dion Bentley. Six units were deemed unsafe due to structural damage and fuel vapors. The Red Cross was assisting those displaced.
The aircraft crashed shortly after departure at 10:30 a.m., Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said. The fixed wing plane was headed to Salisbury, N.C., FAA and online flight records show.
Though the cause of the crash was not immediately known, the weather has not been ruled out as a factor. Visibility was three miles and heavy rain had just passed through the area when the plane went down, Channel 2 meteorologist Brian Monahan said.
Wednesday’s accident comes more than four years after a single-engine Piper crashed onto I-285 shortly after takeoff from PDK on May 8, 2015.
Pilot Greg Byrd, his sons Christopher and Phillip, and Christopher’s fiancée, Jackie Kulzer, died in the crash. In its final report, the NTSB cited a partial loss of engine power due to a contaminated fuel pipe as the likely cause.
On Sunday, a small plane made an emergency landing on I-75 in North Georgia, avoiding a crash. The Cessna 337 twin engine plane landed in the northbound lanes of I-75 near Union Grove Road, according to the Georgia State Patrol. No one was injured.
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