BEAUFORT, N.C. (WNCT) — During a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Carteret County Sheriff Asa Buck said the fuselage and parts of the cabin area of the plane that crashed Sunday off the coast have been recovered.
He also said some of the bodies of the passengers have been found but would not go into detail as to how many of the seven still missing were located. Before Tuesday’s news, Buck said on Monday that one body had been recovered on Sunday from the crash site.
Buck said the remains of the bodies located Tuesday were found by divers in about 55 feet of water. The divers began searching the area early Tuesday afternoon. Buck also said the bodies found would be taken to the medical examiner’s office for positive identification.
Tuesday night, the Coast Guard announced it had suspended the search for the remaining passengers. There was no indication how many of the eight passengers had not been found.
“The Coast Guard will continue to work alongside our local partners through ongoing recovery operations. Our deepest sympathies are with the Down East community,” said Capt. Matt Baer, sector commander, Sector North Carolina. “We are grateful for the outstanding collaboration we have had with our state and local partners, as well as numerous volunteers.”
“Our primary mission has been to recover the passengers who were aboard the plane and, secondarily, to recover any equipment, transponders, flight data instrumentation,” Buck said.
“We have been able to recover remains from passengers onboard and also some of the equipment that we’ve been able to bring to the surface, and hopefully that will help the NTSB and their investigation.”
The names of those who died were released Tuesday afternoon. There were seven passengers and a pilot. The Carteret County Sheriff’s Office said six of the eight on board were from Carteret County. The pilot was from Greenville, along with his son.
- 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
Carteret County Public Schools confirmed Tuesday that four of the teenagers who died were sophomores at East Carteret High School. The school system also announced in a Facebook post that school counselors, psychologists and school crisis team members have responded across the school system and will continue to be available for those who need it.
A prayer vigil was held Tuesday in Atlantic at the Red & White grocery store.
Kendra Lewis, 29, organized a prayer vigil for Tuesday night in the parking lot of a shuttered grocery store.
“We’re just an old fishing community,” she told The Associated Press. “We’re used to banding together and taking care of one another.”
Lewis watched the four boys who were on the plane grow up.
“They’re the definition of Down East people,” she said. “They hunted. They loved each other. They were just a part of the community. We’re all just a big family.”
Crews continued the search into Tuesday after the Coast Guard Cutter Richard Snyder stayed at the crash sites overnight Monday. That followed a full day of searches on Monday after at least three debris fields were located about four miles east of Drum Inlet, Buck said Monday.
Many organizations in the county have been doing their part in raising money, groceries and other items for the impacted families. There have also been signs that say “Pray for Down East” and ribbons that have been seen throughout the county expressing love and support.
West Carteret High School students are making cards for the East Carteret High School students and staff that will be dropped off later this week. Fans who attend sporting events at West Carteret and Croatan High School were encouraged Wednesday to wear their Mariner Blue and Yellow and to dress in camo and/or greens on Thursday.
Charlie Snow, a close friend of the pilot, said Ernest Rawls and Jeff Rawls were father and son. Jeff Rawls was a pilot as well, Snow said.
Snow said the elder Rawls was nicknamed “Teen.” Rawls had previously flown for Snow’s company, Outer Banks Airlines, and he and Rawls had also flown together. The elder Rawls was a highly trained and extremely capable pilot, not to mention a high-level aviation mechanic, said Snow, who is also a pilot.
“If anybody could get out of something, if it was possible to get out of it, he could have done it,” Snow said during a telephone interview. “So it makes me think that whatever happened was catastrophic. But you know, it’s just speculation.”
Snow said he and Ernest Rawls were like brothers and were friends for 20 years.
“I just don’t know many people in the world that I loved better than him,” Snow said. “He was just a great guy, a great pilot, a wonderful man — a fine Christian man.”
Coast Guard officials confirmed Sunday evening the aircraft, a Pilatus PC-12/47 single-engine passenger plane, crashed along the coast around 2 p.m., about four miles east of Drum Inlet, not far south from the Carteret County town of Atlantic and east of Atlantic Beach. Watchstanders at the Coast Guard Sector North Carolina command center said in a press release Sunday they received a report of a possible downed aircraft from an air traffic controller at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. They said the aircraft was seen behaving erratically on radar before it disappeared from the screen.
The Associated Press reported that FlightAware listed a departure of a plane from the Hyde County Airport at 1:35 p.m. Sunday and noted it was last seen near Beaufort in Carteret County at 2:01 p.m.
The Coast Guard said it covered 2,014 square miles over 48 hours. Involved in the search were:
- Coast Guard Cutter Rollin Fritch
- Coast Guard Cutter Richard Snyder
- Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircraft
- Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk
- Coast Guard Station Fort Macon Motor Lifeboat
- Coast Guard Station Hatteras Inlet Response Boat-Small
- National Park Service beach crews
- Towboat U.S.
- Carteret County Sheriff’s Office
- Carteret County Emergency Services
- Down East Fire Department
- Morehead City Fire Department
- Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point units
The Coast Guard Cutter Richard Snyder will assist local law enforcement with recovery efforts. The National Transportation Safety Board will be conducting an investigation to determine the cause of the incident.