Crews close beach while downed plane retrieved, feds begin investigation

Source: CNN iReport
Source: CNN iReport
Source: Robert Jarasek of Mequon, Wisconsin
Source: Robert Jarasek of Mequon, Wisconsin
Source: Robert Jarasek of Mequon, Wisconsin
Source: Robert Jarasek of Mequon, Wisconsin
Source: Robert Jarasek of Mequon, Wisconsin
Source: Robert Jarasek of Mequon, Wisconsin

HILTON HEAD, SC (WCSC/WOTC) - Authorities on Hilton Head Island are investigating a single-engine plane crash that killed one person Monday evening.

The crash happened around 6 p.m. Monday when an Experimental Lancair IV-P plane made an emergency landing on the beach at Palmetto Dunes on Hilton Head.

The pilot told Hilton Head Island firefighters he was flying from Orlando to Virginia when oil began to leak out of the plane and splash onto the windshield.

While trying to make it to the Hilton Head Island Airport to land, the pilot said the propeller fell off the plane, forcing him to make an emergency landing on the beach.

Federal Aviation Administration records show the experimental Lancair IV-P plane that hit Robert Jones was registered to Edward I. Smith of Chesapeake, Va.

Smith was on the beach with his plane Tuesday and confirmed he was the pilot. He said he did not want to talk about the crash and offered few details.

"I've got a lot of issues going on right now. I've got a plane that's all torn up. And I've got a young man that I killed," he said.

Authorities said there was also a passenger on board but did not identify him or her.

The plane started leaking oil at about 13,000 feet and tried originally to make it to Hilton Head Airport, said fire and rescue spokeswoman Joheida Fister.

Officials say a beachgoer, 38-year-old Robert Gary Jones of Woodstock, Ga., was listening to an iPod and didn't hear or see the plane coming.

Jones was hit by the plane from behind before the plane came to a stop in the ocean just off the beach.

Jones was killed in the crash. Both the pilot and a passenger escaped without injury. The Beaufort County coroner says Jones was married and had two children.

On Tuesday, the coroner's office said the type of plane that hit Jones was so quiet, he may not have heard the plane even if he wasn't wearing headphones.

His mother, Pauline Jones, said Tuesday that he was in Hilton Head for work but was supposed to fly home to suburban Atlanta on Wednesday for his daughter's third birthday.

Her son was often out of town for his job with pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, where he had been a salesman since 1997.

Officials say Jones was on Hilton Head for business.

Hilton Head Island Fire Rescue, the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office, the Beaufort County Coroner's Office and Beaufort County Emergency Management all responded Monday.

The plane was still on the beach Tuesday afternoon. Waves lapped against it and the tail was attached to an anchor with a rope so the tide wouldn't pull it out to sea. The waves had washed away any sign of it skidding across the sand.

Yellow crime scene tape stretched from the water to the dunes to keep people away. Tourists walked up to the tape, gawking and snapping pictures. Other than the missing propeller, the plane appeared undamaged.

The plane left Orlando, Fla., at 4:45 p.m. and was headed for Virginia, Fister said. The four-seater plane has a turbine engine, can be built from a kit and can fly up to 370 mph, according to the Lancair Web site. The IV-P model has a pressurized cabin.

A portion of the Palmetto Dunes beach was closed off as crews worked to remove the plane from the water. Heavy equipment was brought in to lift the plane and firefighters are assisting.

The investigation is being turned over to the National Traffic Safety Board and the FAA.

©2010 WCSC and WTOC. All rights reserved.The Associated Press contributed to this report.