LAGRANGE, Ga. - A small aircraft with three people onboard crashed at a LaGrange airport Saturday.
The FAA said the Beechcraft Baron aircraft crashed at LaGrange-Callaway Airport in LaGrange at 2:20 p.m.
A LaGrange Fire Department spokesperson confirmed to Channel 2's Liz Artz two men died at the scene and another died at nearby Columbus Medical Center.
Authorities identified the victims, all from Peachtree City, as:
- 60-year-old Vincent Michael Rossetti
- 69-year-old Willy Lutz
- 53-year-old Jeffery Van Curtis
Witnesses said the aircraft was doing a practice maneuver called "shoot instrument approach" at the time of the crash. The witnesses said the plane was trying to avoid a glider when it stalled and the plane nosedived.
Retired Air Force pilot Rusty Miller said the fire department was on the premise and responded in seconds.
"No smoke or fire, just impacted the ground and still people trapped inside," Miller said. "When we got out there there was really nothing to do."
Witnesses at the scene said the three men were regulars at the airport.
According to flight records, the three men left Panama City Beach at 9:15 a.m. They arrived at LaGrange-Callaway Airport at about 10:45 a.m., refueled and began the maneuvers.
The aircraft was registered to Peachtree City Airport.
"These guys were well known by everybody, well respected, very involved,” said Rossetti and Curtis families spokesperson Bill Flynn.
Flynn, a pilot himself, said his friends were taking care of routine training requirements with Lutz, a flight instructor and friend, on board. Flynn believes they were taking off and only about 100 feet in the air when they ran into interference from another aircraft and nose-dived.
Flynn said all three men leave behind families and will be greatly missed.
"We're just all very, very close and they'll be missed. And always, there's nothing that's going to fill that void, it's just had a very, very severe impact on all of us,” Flynn said.
Jeffry Van Curtis visitation will be held Wednesday, Feb. 26 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Mowell Funeral Home on 200 Robinson Road, Peachtree City. The memorial service will be held Thursday Feb. 27 at 11 p.m. at the Dogwood Church, 740 Dogwood Trail, Tyrone.
Vincent Michael Rossetti visitation will be held Thurs Feb. 27 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Mowell Funeral Home. The memorial service will be held Friday Feb. 28 at 10:30 a.m., location to be determined.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA are investigating the crash. The NTSB will determine a probable cause.