One killed, two injured in Horace Williams plane crash
The crumpled wreckage of a Cirrus SR20 rests a few dozen yards from the runway at Horace Williams Airport. Photo by Kirk Ross
By Kirk Ross, Staff Writer
Flights in and out of Horace Williams Airport resumed Wednesday, two days after the crash of a single-engine plane killed the pilot and injured his co-pilot and a passenger.
Pilot Thomas Pitts, 65, of Wilmington, Del., was killed and his friend and co-pilot Jimmy Donahue and passenger Kyle Henn injured when Pitts’ Cirrus SR20 crashed on approach to the airport about 3:15 p.m Monday.
The two Delaware men were ferrying Henn to North Carolina to be with his parents after his brother, Nate Henn, was killed in last weekend’s terrorist bombings in Uganda that targeted fans watching the World Cup finals.
UNC Hospitals officials said Donahue remains in critical condition with injuries to his legs. Henn left the hospital Tuesday. He and his family issued a statement saying, “We are so grateful to both of the pilots for everything they did on our behalf and are both touched and broken by the events.
Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families.”
According to The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., the two pilots often flew humanitarian missions such as transporting injured soldiers and their family members.
The investigation into the crash will likely focus on how the plane overshot the runway and when and why the plane’s parachute was deployed. Cirrus SR20s are one of the few planes equipped with a chute, formally known as a ballistic recovery device.
UNC Public Safety spokesperson Randy Young said witnesses reported the plane coming in from west to east.
An investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board arrived at the university-owned and -managed airport on Tuesday afternoon to look into what caused the crash. The investigation could take up to 10 days to complete.
The white single-engine plane with blue trim came to rest along the chain link fence in the northwest corner of the airport in an area near the former Chapel Hill Transit bus garage and an impoundment lot used by UNC. The plane was broken into large pieces, its parachute cords strung east of the crash site.
Federal Aviation Administration officials visited the site Monday night.
The university closed the airport after the crash and shifted its Medical Air operations, which transport clinicians and instructors with UNC Health Care’s Area Health Education Centers, to Raleigh-Durham International Airport. It reopened late Tuesday.
Safety at the airport has long been a concern, especially as Chapel Hill and Carrboro grew into the area surrounding it. A series of crashes in the late 1990s led to a vigorous effort to close the airport, which resulted in stricter rules for use of the facility by private pilots and the departure of the Chapel Hill Flying Club.
Eventually, UNC plans to develop the airport and surrounding lands into its Carolina North campus.
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