Local News

Cape Fear River plane crash kills two

Posted July 22, 2011

— Authorities confirmed Friday that two people were killed late Wednesday when a single-engine plane crashed in the Cape Fear River just short of the runway at Harnett Regional Jetport.

Bennie Dalton Williams, 78, of Erwin, the plane's owner, and passenger Ronald Waits Forbes, 61, of Hope Mills, were found dead in the wreckage Thursday afternoon, authorities said.

Teams from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were examining the crash site Friday.

"There's a portion of the plane's track that's covered from Meridian, Miss., to this area, but we want to spend a lot more time on it and get a better understanding of what it says," NTSB investigator Dennis Diaz said.

The Cessna 182 left Mississippi on Wednesday afternoon for the five-hour, 650-mile flight to Harnett County, authorities said. Friends said Forbes owned a trash-hauling service in Cumberland County, and that the men had been in Mississippi to sell some equipment.

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

The FAA lost contact with the plane at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, Harnett County Sheriff Larry Rollins said, but the agency didn't notify his office of a possible crash until Thursday afternoon.

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 called to report it overdue.

Airport manager Stanley Bass said no one was working at the airport off U.S. Highway 421 on Wednesday night, but private planes often take off and land when no one is on duty.

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

NTSB investigator David Diaz Investigators try to pinpoint cause of fatal plane crash

Diaz said the Cessna was equipped with a beacon known as an emergency locator transmitter, which helped searchers locate the wreckage. The beacon doesn't issue a mass alert, however.

"The type of beacon on board the airplane required someone to be monitoring the discrete frequency and listening for that beacon," Diaz said.

He declined to speculate on what might have led to the crash, noting it usually takes investigators nine months to a year to pinpoint a cause.

Rollins 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.

The debris field covered about 300 feet from the woods into the water. Investigators plan to remove the wreckage from the river and assemble it in a hanger for examination.

After the wreckage was found, Bass said, an air-traffic controller checked radar records from Wednesday night and determined that the plane descended rapidly from 700 feet.


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  • paginasecunda Jul 22, 2011

    YA Reckon - please cite where the investigators have stated that it was a stall/spin accident as a result of failing to adjust to a high density altitude. Because I haven't seen where they said that. I know that you didn't just make that up, because then I'd have to add "stall/spin" to the GOLO accident report, which already includes fuel starvation, spatial disorientation, carb icing (funny though, somebody else said that it's fuel injection, so that's problematic), and the trees being poorly positioned (that was last night).

  • YA RECKON Jul 22, 2011

    Even in the event of a catastrophic engine failure, A plane like this one can glide a considerable distance with no power, probably 2+ maybe... 3 miles for every thousand feet of altitude, depending on both air temperature and air pressure and that pesky little number known as "Density Altitude" which has a very direct effect on the flight characteristics of an aircraft, an aircraft behaves as if it were at a specific altitude even when sitting on the ground, lets say were at an airport in Denver CO, our aircraft thinks/performs as if it were at 5,000'... because it is, even though we are sitting still on the ground we are at 5000' above sea level. So from a mile high with this aircraft you've got maybe 10 miles +- to figure out how your gonna handle the landing,however a rapid decent from 700 feet as in this case would probably indicate a stalled condition where the aircraft was flying so slow it just fell out of the sky, in a stalled/spin condition you can drop 1000'in a heartbeat

  • lillypeace Jul 22, 2011

    Sorry for your loss. On the happy side, they were probably happy to go that way, doing what they loved and that was to FLY!

  • TheDude abides... Jul 22, 2011

    Does this really deserve to be at the top of the page for TWO days?!

    Should be in the "local briefs" section.

  • ncavi8tor1 Jul 22, 2011

    "Carb ice. Descending at low throttle setting with no carb heat or partial carb heat on in high relative humidity (>50%) can cause ice even when the outside air temp is 90F. Tragic. Sorry for the loss."

    Unfortunatley a CE182 is fuel injected, therefore, carb. ice is not a consideration. How about leaving the accident investigation to the NTSB!

  • paginasecunda Jul 22, 2011

    So far we have fuel exhaustion, spacial disorientation, and carb icing, all of which are possible explanations, but completely irrelevant until the investigators come out with something. Please leave the investigating to the investigators; it doesn't help anybody, and could be hurtful to those close to the situation. My thoughts and prayers are with the families, and I am saddened at this loss.

  • mfarmer1 Jul 22, 2011

    >> I am not a pilot but why not file a flight plan?

    It's not required by small planes like this.

    If all the small planes had to do this the traffic controllers would be so overwhelmed. It adds traffic to the already busy traffic.

    We Always Did In The Army Because We Were Required To.

  • paginasecunda Jul 22, 2011

    RebelYell - there are so many of these n the news because the News Media goes nuts about them. It's very sad, and my thoughts go out to the family, Aviation is very safe in general, as are maintenance standards. It's just that aviation accidents are reported by the news much more readily than car accidents, regardless of injuries and damages.

  • hearmeout Jul 22, 2011

    As far as the comment made by saberate (intentional) you are not telling it anything it doesn't already know. Just starving for attention and....getting it. I am sure it's parents are so very proud....or maybe it doesn't have a loving family to relate?? More sad than that is the moderator that allowed it to post and WRAL for allowing this person to be employed.
    As for the family...So sorry for the loss of your beloved family member. It's never easy to say goodbye.

  • GulfWarVet Jul 22, 2011

    Carb ice. Descending at low throttle setting with no carb heat or partial carb heat on in high relative humidity (>50%) can cause ice even when the outside air temp is 90F. Tragic. Sorry for the loss.