BEAUFORT, N.C. (WNCT) — A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board indicated the plane that crashed off the Carteret County coast with eight people on board did not issue a distress call before the crash.
The report indicates the plane, a Pilatus PC-12, was destroyed in the crash just off the Carteret County coast, about three miles from Drum Inlet. It left the Pitt-Greenville Airport on Feb. 13 at 12:35 p.m. and landed at the Hyde County Airport at 12:55 p.m. It departed from there at around 1:35 p.m. before it crashed shortly after 2 p.m.
Six of the eight people on the plane were returning from a hunting trip in Hyde County, the Carteret County Sheriff’s Office stated a day after the crash.
The report states the pilot, Ernest Durwood Rawls, contacted air traffic control and indicated things were OK as the plane leveled off at 3,500 feet as it headed to Michael J. Smith Field Airport in Beaufort. The pilot was later informed of approaching restricted airspace.
“After multiple calls with no response from the pilot, the controller instructed the military aircraft in the restricted airspace to remain above 4,000 ft msl,” the report states. “At 1349, the pilot called the controller and requested the RNAV approach to runway 26 but was denied the request because of the active restricted airspace. Furthermore, the controller queried the pilot as to why he did not respond to the earlier radio calls, and the pilot responded that he ‘was trying to get out’ and was unable to receive the radio transmissions. The controller offered an approach to runway 8 or runway 3, and the pilot chose runway 8.”
The controller reported at 1:52 p.m. that the restricted airspace “was not active anymore and asked if the pilot wanted the RNAV approach to runway 26 instead. The pilot responded that he would appreciate that.”
After some course correction to return on the path to the Beaufort airport, the controller tried to reach the airplane again at 2:01 p.m. “because the airplane was at 4,700 ft. msl and climbing quickly. There was no response,” the report states.
It also indicated “there were no distress calls or a declaration of emergency from the airplane.”
The eight on board who were killed included four students from East Carteret High School.
- Ernest Durwood Rawls, 67, Greenville, NC, Pilot
- Jeffrey Worthington Rawls, 28, Greenville, NC
- Stephanie Ann McInnis Fulcher, 42, Sea Level, NC
- Jonathan Kole McInnis, 15, Sea Level, NC
- Douglas Hunter Parks, 45, Sea Level, NC
- Noah Lee Styron, 15, Cedar Island, NC
- Michael Daily Shepard, 15, Atlantic, NC
- Jacob Nolan Taylor, 16, Atlantic, NC
Officials said the plane was found crashed in 60 feet of water. Divers recovered a flight recorder, which is currently being used to determine the cause of the crash.