ATLANTA — A prominent metro Atlanta real estate developer and his wife, an interior designer featured on HGTV, were the two passengers on a plane that crashed near Savannah on Monday, officials confirmed to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Byron Cocke, 42, and Catherine Cocke, 39, died when the plane crashed in a “very heavily wooded area” about 150 feet from the Ogeechee River, said Clint Hodges, Effingham County director of emergency management.
The plane was heading to Atlanta Regional Airport-Falcon Field in Peachtree City, Hodges said.
He confirmed that the husband is the co-founder and co-CEO of CF Real Estate, a company that formed from a 2013 merger between Cocke Finkelstein, Inc., and Atlanta-based Lane Company, according to its website.
CF Real Estate has properties as far north as Michigan, but is responsible for several metro Atlanta housing projects, including The Lofts at Atlantic Station and Olmsted Chamblee, which features a big sign of the city’s name.
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Hodges was unsure whether the couple was flying for business from Savannah, where the company has a student-centric apartment complex named The Hue.
CF Real Estate's Co-CEO Brett Finkelstein sent Channel 2 Action News the following statement Tuesday afternoon:
"On Monday, Aug. 28 Our Co-CEO Byron Cocke and his wife Catherine passed away in the crash of a small plane. We are devastated by this tragic loss. They were philanthropic, creative, intelligent, caring and entrepreneurial. Byron and Catherine were devoted to their five beautiful children, who are being cared for by their extended family. As we all cope with this loss, we ask that everyone celebrate their lives and respect the privacy of those who love them. Working with Byron was a joy. He personified love of family, love of company and love for co-workers. He was laid back – yet motivated us to be the best we could possibly be and to treat the company as if it were our own. I will continue to lead this solid and growing organization. I'm confident in our senior team and their leadership and we are working together to ensure continuity. We will always strive for the greatness Byron envisioned. His dreams are still very much alive, as we continue in his honor. We send our love to their family."
The Savannah Downtown Neighborhood Association posted a statement about the couple’s death on its website. The statement said one member of the couple was part of the association’s board but didn’t say which.
“The Savannah community has lost a shining light in this beautiful couple and while our hearts are heavy, we ask for prayers for their surviving five children.”
The website for the wife’s interior design business said she was featured on a 2011 episode of HGTV's “My Big Amazing Renovation,” titled “Going Big in Georgia” showing her 18-month renovation of the couple’s 1950s home.
Authorities have not released a cause of the crash.
Hodges said Tuesday that the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board would start their investigations that morning.
A Chatham County Mosquito Control helicopter found the downed Beechcraft Bonanza, a fixed-wing single-engine aircraft built in 1994, about 11:20 a.m. on Monday, nearly two hours after being notified that it had crashed.
The plane is registered to a resident of Tyrone, according to FAA records. Officials were still working to notify the pilot’s next of kin and had not identified him on Tuesday.
Cox Media Group