Carroll Stephenson, 52, of Smithfield, died on impact after the plane he was piloting went down at the Johnston County Airport. His passenger, Joseph "Jody" Parrish, 21, of Smithfield, died several hours later after being airlifted to Duke University Medical Center.
The plane crashed on a runway about 1:45 p.m., just minutes after takeoff. Airport officials Stephenson radioed the airport, but the transmission was not clear.
It is believed that Stephenson was attempting to land the aircraft.
"I told him he was garbled," says airport manager Roy Dixon. "He didn't repeat or he didn't say anything after that."
The single-engine plane, aGlasair III, is considered an experimental aircraft. Investigators do not yet know what caused it to go down.
"He was coming in for a landing," says Patrick Harris of the Smithfield Fire Department. "Something evidently went wrong with the landing and then caused the crash. As far as any details into any malfunctions or anything like that, we are unable to elaborate at this time."
Officials do not believe the crash was weather related. The crash happened about 30 minutes before bad weather came through the area. It is the first fatal crash in the airport's history.
Stephenson, a Smithfield insurance broker and developer, had 25 years of experience as a pilot.
"He was the best pilot I knew," says Sen. Allen Wellons, D-Smithfield. "He flew me wherever I wanted to go. We had been through some bad weather at times, he always handled it, he never got flustered."
"It's the biggest shock I've probably ever had in my life," says Tom Parrish, a friend and business partner. "I've lost one of my best friends and it just doesn't seem real."
Parrish, who is no relation to Joseph Parrish, says Stephenson gave of himself to the community and will be greatly missed.
"He was good for the community. He was good to people. He helped a lot of people who needed it and he did it anonymously," he says.
Craig Kuszmaul taught Joseph Parrish at Smithfield-Selma High School. Kuszmaul says his student was passionate about flying and dreamed of becoming a commercial pilot.
"It was an aspect of his life he didn't want to give up. I don't think anyone could have talked him out of it. As far as flying goes, it was in his blood," he says.
TheFAAis investigating the crash. The airport will remain closed until the investigation is complete.
The plane, which is manufactured byStoddard-Hamilton Aircraft Inc., is often bought as a kit and assembled. The company filed for bankruptcy two weeks ago. From staff and wire reports