State News

6 Die as Plane Crashes Trying to Land in Surry County Fog

Posted February 1, 2008 1:24 p.m. EST
Updated February 1, 2008 9:39 p.m. EST

— A twin-engine plane crashed Friday as it tried to land in low-lying fog at the Mount Airy/Surry County Airport, killing all six people on board, officials said.

Stephanie Conner, a Surry County emergency services shift supervisor, said investigators had confirmed there were no survivors.

Surry County officials said the Beechcraft King Air C90A crashed in a neighborhood near the airport around 11:30 a.m. The plane split in half after falling into a grassy area between two homes.

"It jarred my house, it hit so hard," said a woman to an emergency dispatcher in a 911 call released Friday afternoon. "And some lady was hollering just now."

"Oh, God, please somebody, get over here," another 911 caller said.

No one on the ground was hurt, said Warren Woodberry, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Woodberry said the plane left Polk County-Cornelius Moore Field in Cedartown, Ga., and was headed for Mount Airy.

Kelvin Boyette, the Mount Airy airport manager, said the passengers were on their way to Primland, a hunting and golf resort in Meadows of Dan, Va., about 25 miles north of the airport.

"The hunting resort van was actually waiting for them, and (the driver of the van) was the only person who saw the plane come out of the clouds," Boyette said.

Boyette said the plane was attempting to land when it missed on its approach, and it might have been trying to circle back for another attempt before it crashed.

"There was a really low fog, it was raining a little bit and (there was) an occasional sleet pellet. But visibility was more than a 2.5 miles," he said.

The plane is registered to Blue Sky Airways in Dallas, Ga., northwest of Atlanta, according to FAA records.

One of the men on board was identified, by his cousin, Ronald Rakestraw, as John Wesley Rakestraw, a pilot who owned a construction company in Dallas with the same address listed on the plane's registration.

Bert Brantley, a spokesman for Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, said that Rakestraw held a fundraiser for Perdue at his home during the governor's re-election campaign.

Also on board, authorities said, were Paulding County, Ga., Commissioner Hal Echols, developer Steve Simpson, Robert Butler, Frank Ruggiero and Tony Gunter.

Boyette said resort-bound hunters often fly though the airport, and the plane was the only inbound flight expected at the airport Friday.

Debris from the crass was largely confined to a small area between the two homes.

Firefighters sprayed the site with foam. Yellow tape was strung between light poles to block off the site.

"I've been in this neighborhood six years. The airport's just a hop, skip and a jump from here," Sandra Williams told WRAL News. "I've always worried something like this would happen, and today, it did."