JASPER, Ga. - Investigators from the NTSB in Washington, D.C., along the FAA are probing what caused a Piper Cherokee plane to crash just a half-mile from the airstrip in Jasper.
Michael Hughes, a 21-year-old flight student and volunteer firefighter, was on his third solo flight Thursday afternoon when the plane crashed, investigators said.
The NTSB told Channel 2’s Tom Regan he was doing touch-and-go take off and landings. After he took off a second time, witness said the aircraft's engine stopped making noise and seemed to cut out.
“The plane was observed to enter what someone described as similar to an aerodynamic stall. The nose pitched down and the airplane appeared to spin to the left until disappearing behind trees and then witness heard the aircraft impact," said Todd Gunther, with the NTSB.
Hughes died in the crash.
As part of the investigation, the NTSB said they will examine the plane’s engine system, structural integrity and maintenance records for the aircraft. They will also try to determine if pilot error played a role in the crash.
“(We are) working with the GBI for pathological means to assess the performance of the pilot,” Gunther said.
The NTSB told Regan they plan to remain at the crash scene through Saturday and will remove the plane for further investigation.
They told Regan they could have a preliminary report on the cause of the crash in the next week or two.
The family of Michael Joseph Hughes has issued the following public statement on October 10, 2015:
“Michael Joseph Hughes, 21, passed away on Thursday, October 8, 2015. His tragic and sudden loss has devastated his family and friends. He was a young and selfless person who was loved by many.
Visitation will occur at Mountain View Funeral Home in Blairsville, GA on Monday, October 12 from 6-9 pm. The memorial service will also be at the funeral home on Tuesday, October 13 at 11 am. No flowers please.
While the NTSB investigation continues, our family asks that you respect our privacy as we grieve our tremendous loss. At this time, our family has no further comment. We appreciate your understanding during this difficult time and we ask for your continued prayers. Thank you.”