CARROLL COUNTY, Ga. — Crews from the National Transportation Safety Board are combing through the scene of a deadly plane crash Wednesday at an airport in Carroll County.
Three people died in the collision, which authorities said appeared to have happened when two small planes were attempting to land at the West Georgia Regional Airport just before 11 a.m.%
An instructor and a student died in a Diamond DA20, owned by Falcon Aviation Academy based in Newnan, as did the solo pilot in a Beechcraft Bonanza. The third victim was a flight student from China.
When local pilot Bernie Weidenaar heard about the crash, he went to the airport and told Channel 2's Ross Cavitt that he was shocked by the scene at the end of the runway.
"I just wanted to come out and see what happened,” Weidenaar said. "It’s tough. Tough on the aviation community, tough on the families also. So yeah, it’s not easy."
Rescuers found the two aircraft intertwined and crumpled at the runway's end.
“We have three fatalities. There's one in the Beechcraft and (two) in the Diamond," Carroll County Fire Chief Scott Blue said after the crash.
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"Both planes were coming in on the final approach at the same time," said Capt. Jeff Richards of the Carroll County Sheriff's Office.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant spent the afternoon Wednesday driving around the metro area to learn more about the victims. Diamant said he found a somber mood at Falcon Aviation Academy at Newnan-Coweta County Airport.
Diamant confirmed that one of the academy's flight instructors, Taylor Stone, died in the collision 40 miles away.
Through sources and research throughout the day, Diamant believes that he has identified the Beechcraft's pilot through federal airman and aircraft registration records. However, we are not reporting his name until we get confirmation from either investigators, family or co-workers.
Stone's family minister in Chattanooga also confirmed Stone's death to Diamant by phone.
There has been a public outpouring of support for Stone's family on social media.
"When I first met her, she was like, 'My dream is to be a pilot,'" said Adrian Hemphill, who met Stone in the first grade.
Hemphill told Channel 2's Rikki Klaus that Stone's career goals were always clear.
"Everybody in school would tell you that she was going to be a pilot," Hemphill said.
Not only did she become a pilot, but at 24, Stone was a flight instructor at Falcon Aviation Academy.
"She was my best friend growing up in elementary and middle school," Hemphill told Klaus. "And she probably taught me the true definition of a friend."
The Associated Press identified a second victim as 79-year-old William Lewis Lindsey of College Park. The identity of the third victim has yet to be released, pending family notification.
Channel 2 Action News has not been able to speak to anyone with the company.
Investigators told Cavitt that two men in a third plane in the pattern near the airport, also with the Falcon school, saw the incident unfold.
West Georgia Regional does not have a control tower, but that does not mean that pilots are flying blind.
"You should be transmitting to a common frequency when you take off. You should be doing the same thing when you're landing," Weidenaar told Cavitt.
"We know there was some radio traffic. As to who reported that, I'm not sure, and that will fall under FAA and NTSB for their investigation," Richards said.
The FAA released a statement to Channel 2 Action News about the crash:
"Two single aircraft, a Diamond Aircraft DA20C1 and a Beech F33A, collided in midair over at the West Georgia Airport, Carrolton, GA at 10:54 am today. The FAA will investigate and the NTSB will determine the cause of the accident. Please contact local authorities for passenger information."
West Georgia Regional Airport is 1-runway, uncontrolled airport. Pilots announce take-offs/landings to each other. pic.twitter.com/dC7A1AFyOz— Jason Durden (@JasonDurdenWSB) September 7, 2016
Cox Media Group