NTSB begins investigation of fatal Mt. Pleasant plane crash

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) - Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board began Friday morning in the Mount Pleasant marsh where a plane crashed a day earlier.

Two people, a 20-year-old pilot-in-training and a flight instructor, were killed in the crash.

Crews started removing the plane Friday afternoon. It will be kept in a hangar at the airport until it's moved to Atlanta.

The Charleston County Coroner's Office identified the victims as Matthew Gaither and 33-year-old Graham Borland. The two men were associated with Coastal Aviation, Inc., a flight training school at the airport.

Officials from the school have not been available for comment.

At a briefing by NTSB investigator Stephen Stein, officials said investigators would study what they could of the plane in Charleston before moving it to Atlanta.

Stein said there were at least two witnesses who saw the plane go down and officials have taken their statements.

Daryl McMillan, an investigator with the Federal Aviation Administration who arrived at the crash scene Thursday afternoon, said he and other officials know very little about what happened.

The Charleston County Aviation Authority said it appears the plane was taking off at the time of the crash, officials said.

Inspector Chip Googe, the spokesman for the Mount Pleasant Police Department, said the plane went down about 300 yards beyond the Mount Pleasant airport's runway.

Officials from the FAA identified the plane as a single-engine Cessna 150, but would not provide a tail number.

Earlier in the day, the co-owner of Hanger Aviation on Johns Island, where the plane is registered, said one of the victims is a 20-year-old flight trainee with close ties to the company.

The Aviation Authority statement says it owns the airport, but it is operated by Atlantic Aviation. It is primarily used as an airport for recreational and leisure fliers.

People who live and work near the airport say they went to see what happened when they saw a plane's tail sticking out of the ground in the marsh beyond the runway.

One woman said she's never seen a crash before, but another person said the crash is unfortunate but not unexpected.

"Look at any airport. Look anywhere you can, it's going to happen. Look at the streets. You have cars, there's going to be car accidents. Unfortunately, this happened," said Matt Kelly. "God bless them, it's awful."

NTSB officials say a preliminary report will be ready within 10 days, but a full report on what caused the crash may take a year to complete.

Gaither's family has set up a memorial scholarship fund at Wells Fargo bank.

Cole Gaither, the 20-year-old man's father and co-owner of Hanger Aviation, said his son just started pilot training last week. On Monday, he had started training with Borland in three-hour session.

Gaither said Borland was a certified instructor and most likely in the passenger seat at the time of the crash, Cole Gaither said. His son would have been flying the plane, he said.

According to Cole Gaither, his son wanted to be a Navy SEAL. He has two brothers and a sister and graduated from James Island Charter High School. After high school, he spent a year in Colorado, but had recently returned to the Lowcountry.

Borland, a College of Charleston graduate, has two young children, a son and a daughter.

The funeral for Gaither has been scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday at James Island Presbyterian Church.