Local News

One killed as plane crashes in Cape Fear River in Harnett County

Posted July 21, 2011
Updated July 22, 2011

— At least one person was killed when a small plane crashed late Wednesday in the Cape Fear River a short distance from the Harnett Regional Jetport, authorities said Thursday.

Two people were reported on board, but there was no word on the condition of the second person.

The single-engine Cessna 182 left Philadelphia, Miss., on Wednesday and was headed to Harnett County, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said.

Air-traffic controllers lost track of the plane within a mile of the airport, Bergen said.

Plane crashes in Cape Fear River near Harnett airport Plane crashes in Cape Fear River near Harnett airport

Harnett County Sheriff Larry Rollins said an FAA office in Virginia called his office Thursday afternoon after relatives of someone aboard the plane called the agency expressing concern that the plane was overdue.

W.C. Tew said he knows the two people who were on board the plane and even works for one of them. 

"We were waiting to hear from him because nobody heard from him all night. His wife was waiting to get up with him last night," Tew said. 

The FAA lost contact with the plane at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, Rollins said, adding that it's not uncommon for the the agency not to follow up on a lost signal from a private plane.

Bergen said that, because the plane didn't file a flight plan and wasn't talking with air-traffic controllers, the FAA wasn't aware the plane was missing until family members contacted the agency.

A Civil Air Patrol plane spotted the wreckage in the river at about 2:45 p.m. Thursday.

The sheriff said it appears that the plane crashed on its approach to the airport, noting the tops of some trees on the south side of the river had been clipped.

Bennie Williams of Erwin is the registered owner of the plane. It's unclear whether he was aboard.

Teams from the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were on their way to the crash site to investigate, Bergen said.

Larry Pleasant was watering trees when he heard the plane crash into the river Wednesday night.

"I thought it was thunder," Pleasant said.


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  • rydndirtynnc Jul 22, 2011

    Story here says it's in the river, but I bet it's in the lake That Coble Ski Estates Road runs through, cause that picture shows very shallow water, and I don't believe the river is that shallow there, but could be wrong.

    have you ever been to or seen the Cape Fear River in Erwin??? it's less then knee deep at best year round with nothing but big rocks and sand..unless we've had a big rain storm up river somewhere...and being that we're in a drought..it's below the average knee deep level.

  • smashedglass Jul 22, 2011

    Praying for the family and friends

  • pinklady-1 Jul 22, 2011

    thoughts and prayers to the families...

  • mfarmer1 Jul 22, 2011

    >> "Amazing that this plane was out of touch for so long without anyone following up on their whereabouts"

    Well It Is Normal, Also If They Did Not File A Flight Plan (That's Not Required) They are not require to check in. the other thing is this plane may not have had a emergency transponder for after they went down.

    Not sure if the transponder is required now days It was not for small civ aircraft when I flew for the army.

    I Doubt If This Craft Had A "Black Box"

    One Of The Things that Pilots Rely On Is The Altimeter . An altimeter is an instrument used to measure the altitude of an object above a fixed level.

    Some Of Them Run Off Radar, But On A Craft Like This It More Than Likely Ran Off Of atmospheric pressure. They Can Get The barometer From Any Of The Flight Centers, And It changes from location to location. this would throw off what altitude was displayed on the gages.

    Condolences leannfan1

  • usababy2000 Jul 22, 2011

    "The FAA lost contact with the plane at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, Rollins said, adding that it's not uncommon for the the agency not to follow up on a lost signal from a private plane."

    Really!?! In todays world they really think this is acceptable. Once they lost contact/signal of the plane they should have contacted someone. It's a plane- it doesn't just disappear for no reason.

  • leannfan1 Jul 22, 2011

    Thank you for all the thoughts and prayers. This is a very hard time for mine and my husbands family. His grandfather was an avid flyer. Even we don't know what happened yet. Hopefully we will soon. Also, please withhold any negative comments you may have. Remember this is someones family member that was lost in this crash. Again thank you for all the prayers and well wishes, they are apprciated by my family.

  • Wendellcatlover Jul 22, 2011

    Amazing that this plane was out of touch for so long without anyone following up on their whereabouts. That seems to be a problem to me...procedures might need to change. But regardless, I/m sorry for the families involved. My prayers are with you all.

  • paginasecunda Jul 21, 2011

    "Someone maybe out there cutting down some trees soon.

    I did look on google, it does look like if he flew in from the north an then turned counter clockwise to head back to the air port north to land the trees on the left would interfere. with the landing. unless he went farther out then went straight in it would be better because there is a few farmers fields there."

    I doubt that the trees were the root problem here, the plane should have been at least a couple hundred feet above them when flying over that river. And yes, flying out and then coming straight back in is probably a better idea; in fact, that's essentially what we do most of the time (it's called a "traffic pattern"), we generally don't just dive for the runway from any direction. I do not know what the problem was, and I don't pretend to. We'll find out from the investigators well after this story is no longer up; it's a tragedy for all the people involved, and I am very saddened to have learned of this accident.

  • lawncare5 Jul 21, 2011

    My son and his friend took off from that airport recently enroute to Kentucky. I was nervous the whole time. Thankfully they had no problems.

  • RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman Jul 21, 2011

    JJ - "The aircraft is registered to an Erwin man, he obviously was familiar with the airport and landing procedures for both 04 and 22."

    I agree.

    Because he lived in Erwin, he had to have used that airport many many times.