Twenty-seven-year-old David Dollar of Durham was killed when the plane he was piloting crashed near the Lee County-Harnett County line around 4 p.m. Thursday.
The plane filed a flight plan from RDU to New Bern and from New Bern to Greenville and was on the last leg of the trip, from Greenville to Concord, when it crashed, according to Harnett County Sheriff Larry Knott.
Witnesses say the Piper single-engine plane appeared to hit a guy wire and took the whole tower down with it.
Pilots do have some help when it comes to navigating their flight.
Radio and television towers sometimes reach heights of a quarter of a mile. Pilots say they have a specialized map that helps them locate and avoid hazards.
"Basically, we have maps that are issued by the FAA and the NOS that give us a pretty clear depiction of where obstacles are and what their altitudes are," corporate pilot Norb Rosando said. "That way, you can gauge the altitude you plan on flying your airplace compared to the obstacles that are along your route."
The maps list everything from mountains to areas where parachutists may be jumping as well as towers.
The air-mail carrier had been hired by Wachovia to transport checks and other documents to a processing facility.
Witnesses say that paperwork was scattered everywhere.
"I was a little worried because it was all bank documents," said Melvina Shackleton.
Shackleton and her son collected two garbage bags full of documents, which they said included canceled checks, titles, deeds, and inter-office mail, all postmarked from Winterville, North Carolina. Wachovia officials said they have an emergency plan in place to replace the documents that may have been lost.
Authorities said that they found a piece of the plane, which was owned by Ram Air Freight Service, 300 yards northwest of the tower building.
The 1,800-foot-tall tower is owned by WRAL parent company Capitol Broadcasting and serves Fayetteville station
WKFT-TV channel 40
, which was off the air for several hours after the crash.
This is not the first time a Capitol Broadcasting TV tower has collapsed. After a severe ice storm on December 10, 1989, warm temperatures caused uneven thawing of the estimated 40,000 pounds of ice that accumulated on the tower's supporting wires. The tower fractured and fell.
Three hours later, WRAL-TV5 was back on the air thanks to Capitol Satellite, a sister company, and WKFT.
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