COLUMBIA, S.C. — A plane crashed in the Rosewood area of Columbia, striking at least one home on Wednesday morning.
The wreckage of the small plane smoldered in a yard while detached landing gear was strewn nearby.
The small plane hit a home, causing a fire, before crashing in the backyard, according to the Columbia Police Department. Rescue crews are on the scene near Kennedy Street and Prentice Avenue, police said. The Richland County coroner is on the scene.
The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed the plane that crashed was a single-engine Beechcraft BE-33. The plane’s tail number will be released after investigators confirm it at the scene, FAA spokesperson Kathleen Bergen said.
A Beechcraft BE-33 left Greenville at 9:59 a.m., and was traveling to Columbia, where it was scheduled to land at 10:43 a.m., according to Greenville Downtown Airport Director Joe Frasher. The crash was reported to the Columbia Fire Department at 10:34 a.m., Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins said.
There was no confirmation if the plane that left Greenville was the same one that crashed in Columbia.
Firefighters arrived at the scene of the crash shortly after receiving the emergency call. Roads near the site of the crash were closed to the public while emergency operations were underway.
The crash happened close to the Jim Hamilton-LB Owens Airport, where officials believe the plane intended to land. The plane was believed to be traveling from Greenville to Columbia, according to Police Chief Skip Holbrook.
Messages left with the airport were not immediately returned.
One house caught on fire following the crash, but firefighters have the blaze under control, Jenkins said.
No one on the ground was hurt because of the crash, but one person suffered injuries, according to Jenkins. That person might have been scratched by a cat she was trying to get out of the house, Jenkins said.
“Considering the circumstances, we’re very, very lucky we didn’t have more injuries,” Holbrook said after calling the scene secure.
Rescue workers are currently looking for a body, according to Columbia Deputy Police Chief Melron Kelly. No bodies have been found, Kelly said.
Richland County Coroner Naida Rutherford was on the scene but would not confirm if the pilot’s body, or any others, were recovered. It is “still an active investigation,” she said.
There is no word on what caused the crash.
“I’m looking at it right now and I can’t see any occupants,” Kelly said as firefighters battled to get the burning plane under control.
The crash caused significant damage to the home it hit and to the plane, which Jenkins said was mangled.
Charles Grondines saw — and felt — the scene unfold in his own backyard.
Grondines, a University of South Carolina student, lives on Prentice Avenue. He said the small plane clipped a neighboring house and ended up crashing in his backyard, along a fence. Three people were home at the time of the crash, Grondines said.
“My roommate runs in and says, ‘A plane just crashed in our backyard,’” Grondines told The State. “At that point, we didn’t see any fire or anything. I said, ‘We’ve got to go help.’ We were getting our shoes on, and that’s when the explosion happened. That one was just insane. You could just feel the shock waves that would knock people down.
“It was one of the craziest things I’ve seen outside of a movie.”
Rosewood neighborhood resident Clayton Smith said he lives about 100 yards from the crash.
He said he heard the plane descending but didn’t know what it was. When he heard an explosion, he said he thought it was an earthquake.
“It shook the house,” Smith said.
Coming outside, it was immediately obvious a plane had crashed, he said.
At the nearby Montessori School of Columbia, “We heard a bang, and about 40 emergency vehicles went by the school and we saw the house on fire,” head of school Karen Kuse said.
No children were outside at the time of the plane crash, Kuse said. Law enforcement officials directed everyone to stay inside the school, and the school is not being evacuated, she said.
John Bailey was heading to work at the Pretzel Factory in the Rosewood Village shopping complex. He said he saw the plane going down as he pulled into the gas station on Rosewood Drive across from Publix and heard the crash a short time later when it went down a few blocks away.
“That was kind of a shock,” he said. “You don’t expect to see something like that.”
Despite the frenzy of activity around the crash, Bailey said he then headed into work, where staff are going through training ahead of the pretzel shop reopening on Friday. “I just kinda got back to work” after the crash, he said.
Jenkins did not know if the plane was already on fire before it crashed, but the fire chief said the plane caused the house fire and that all of the fuel on board the “very small plane” burned up in the fire.
Regarding smoke and possible fumes from the crash, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control said, “At this time, there is no known threat to the environment or public health. It’s always a best practice to stay out of smoke. Local authorities remain the lead in responding to this incident.”
The National Weather Service office in Columbia issued a dense fog advisory for the Midlands through noon, but there was no indication that the conditions had any effect on the wreck.
The Columbia Police Department is leading the investigation into the crash, and it has notified the National Transportation Safety Board about the incident. When the NTSB arrives, that agency will take control of leading the investigation. It could take 2 weeks for a preliminary report to be issued, and 1 to 2 years before a final reported is released, NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss said.
FAA safety inspectors were also en route to the scene to participate in the investigation.
The plane debris will be left in place for federal aviation investigators to probe. Local police and fire officials said the cause of the plane crash will have to be determined later by the federal investigators.
(The State reporters Sammy Fretwell, Bristow Marchant, Erin Slowey and Chris Trainor contributed to this story.)
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