by: Richard Elliot Updated:CARROLL COUNTY, Ga. —
Federal investigators are trying to determine why an aircraft crashed in a densely wooded part of Carroll County on Sunday afternoon and killed the pilot and his grandson.
Family members confirmed the pilot was 70-year-old Richard Haney, a retired owner of a large car dealership in Carrollton. They also said Haney had his grandson with him on the plane, 9-year -old Jeffrey Haney.
"Richard was a wonderful family man, a businessman and an avid aviationist," said family spokesperson Weyman Rooks. "He passed that love of flying onto his children and grandchildren."
The National Transportation Safety Board removed most of the wreckage of the Steen Skybolt open cockpit bi-plane Monday afternoon and hauled to a hangar in Griffin so investigators can take a closer look at it.
Witness Eddie Williams said he was outside his home Sunday afternoon when he saw Haney's plane fly barely 100 yards overhead. Williams said he immediately knew something was wrong.
"I heard it spitting and sputtering," said Williams. "I heard the engine cut off, and when the engine cut off, it kind of glided down, and I heard somebody hollering, then I watched the plane go down and crash."
Another witness said he spotted the plan in a low-altitude nose-first spiral shortly before the crash.
Williams said he immediately dialed 911 and ran into the woods to try and help, but there wasn't much left of the plane when he arrived.
NTSB spokesperson Ralph Hicks said it appears the plane struck a tree before crashing to the ground.
"The first impact point appeared to be a tall white oak," said Hicks. "The airplane struck the tree about 60 feet up, and about a quarter of the wing remained lodged in the tree."
Hicks characterized Haney as an experienced pilot with over 2700 hours of flight time.