Local News

Plane wreckage removed from Umstead Park after fatal weekend crash near RDU

Posted October 22, 2019 1:22 p.m. EDT
Updated October 22, 2019 5:59 p.m. EDT

— Two days after a small plane crashed on approach to Raleigh-Durham International Airport Sunday night, crews removed the wreckage of the doomed Piper PA32 Tuesday from Umstead State Park.

A large crane was brought in to extricate the mangled plane from the wooded park, made up of nearly 6,500 acres that sits adjacent to RDU. The mangled metal will be placed on a flatbed truck and hauled away so investigators can continue their probe into why the plane went down.

Dr. Harvey Partridge and Patricia Partridge, both 72, of Terra Ceia, Fla., were killed when the plane went down Sunday around 7:30 p.m. The couple was arriving in North Carolina for a vacation, according to family friends.

Friends of the family told WRAL News that Harvey Partridge was an experienced pilot who had logged thousands of hours in the air.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, which occurred on a night with poor visibility from a low cloud ceiling.

The plane struck a tree and was found about 10 a.m. Monday upside down near the Reedy Creek multi-use trail following an extensive overnight search.

Searchers found the plane near an area of the park known as "Cemetery Hill," nickamed because of an old cemetery that sits next to the trail. The National Transportation Safety Board is now in charge of the investigation.

"I just happened to be walking my dog in the area two to three hours before it actually happened Sunday night," said a fitness enthusiast who was at the park Tuesday. "It’s very unfortunate."

A statement by the FAA identified the plane as a Piper PA32 that was on approach to Runway 32 when radar contact with the small aircraft was lost. That runway is the smallest of three landing strips and perpendicular to RDU's primary runway.

Flight tracking data shows that the Partridges' took off from Columbus, Ga., and their plane circled RDU multiple times.

According to an RDU spokeswoman, airport workers were notified at 7:25 p.m. Sunday by air traffic controllers from the Federal Aviation Administration that a small aircraft approaching the airport disappeared from radar somewhere over Umstead State Park, which is adjacent to the east side of RDU.

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