Downed plane found near McClellanville, 2 dead

MCCLELLANVILLE, S.C. (WCIV) -- Two people died after a plane went down near the town of McClellanville on Highway 17 Thursday afternoon, officials said.

The coroner was called to the scene, deputies said.

Officials said the plane was found about two miles from South Tibwin Road, off Highway 17. The Federal Aviation Administration said the plane left the airport on a training flight to Georgetown and had a planned return to Johns Island.

Crews from Charleston County Rescue responded Thursday afternoon.

Officials say they didn't know a cause yet but they spoke with eyewitnesses.

"Some of them said they saw an airplane in the sky start to come down but they were kind of shell shocked," Awendaw Fire Department Battalion Chief Fred Tetor said. "They said the plane was coming down and then they heard a loud 'boom' noise."

According to FlightAware, a similar model plane left Charleston Executive Airport on Johns Island Thursday afternoon. That plane's tail number is registered to Nighthawk Air, LLC, a company out of Matthews, N.C., but officials have not confirmed that the plane listed by FlightAware is the same plane that crashed.

The FAA said a Rockwell International 690B aircraft landed on Highway 17 near Charleston. The FAA said its air traffic controllers lost contact with a twin-engine plane approximately 28 nautical miles northeast of Charleston.

Reports initially indicated one person was on the plane, FAA officials said. That number was later revised to say two people were on board.

Officials added that the plane's N-number would be released when the pilot's condition and identity was confirmed. The NTSB will lead the investigation into what caused the crash, FAA officials said.

The Charleston County Sheriff's Office, the Awendaw Fire Department and the Department of Natural Resources dispatched crews to the area.

Tetor said the area where the plane was found was marshy, about knee deep, two miles from the command post near Highway 17.

"There are a couple of big ditches back there. We've had to put some ladders to go from land mass to land mass to get to some of those areas. That was some of the biggest challenges. It's just muddy there," Tetor said.

Chief Tetor said the area is difficult to navigate. They had to bring ladders to get across certain areas. Tetor also told the Associated Press that those at the site could smell fuel.

Tetor said investigators listened to several 911 calls made to dispatch at the time of the crash.

The identities of the passengers have not been released.

A deputy standing guard along Tibwin Road early Friday morning said investigators left the crash site overnight. The officer said investigators would likely return shortly after sunrise.