NOTE: This story has been updated to show that federal aviation authorities believe the charter plane was flying to an airport in Cobb County when it crashed near Savannah. Since the crash, authorities have identified the pilot as being from metro Atlanta and his two passengers as a couple from Savannah. Read the latest here.
Three people died Monday morning after their charter plane crashed near Savannah while heading back to metro Atlanta.
Authorities in Bryan and Effingham counties said they were having trouble notifying the next of kin for the pilot and two passengers and thus have not identified the three.
Kathleen Bergen, a spokeswoman with the Federal Aviation Agency, said the plane was flying to Cobb County International Airport-McCollum Field from Savannah International Airport when it crashed.
Clint Hodges, Effingham’s director of emergency management, said a Chatham County Mosquito Control helicopter found the downed Beechcraft Bonanza, a fixed-wing single-engine aircraft built in 1994, about 11:20 a.m. nearly two hours after being notified that it had crashed.
Hodges described the crash site as a “very heavily wooded area” about 150 feet from the Ogeechee River, which is the border between Bryan and Effingham counties. Units from both areas responded.
Freddy Howell, head of Bryan County emergency services, told reporters Monday afternoon that of the three inside the plane, two were men and one was a woman. He said the pilot was a man and a preliminary investigation showed the other two were a couple.
The agency gave the plane’s tail number, which is registered to a man who lives in Tyrone, according to FAA records.
Howell said there were 40 to 50 units on land, air and water trying to find the plane. He said some had to use ATVs to get to the plane, which is on private property.
“We were hoping they’d just lost communications and landed somewhere,” he said.
Bulldozers with the state forestry agency had to clear a path to the downed plane, said Byron Haire, assistant district manager for the Ogeechee District of the Georgia Forestry Commission.
He said his agency got the call about noon to help to “punch a hole” to the crash site.
Howell said the plane may remain where it is for days, as the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board investigate.
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