CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - A preliminary report released Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board indicates a loss of in-flight control caused a fatal plane crash in the Francis Marion Forest that killed two people last Thursday.
According to the report, meteorological conditions were checked before the flight and a instrument flight rules flight plan was filed. Local weather data revealed no convective activity or thunderstorms were reported in the area during the time of the crash.
The report comes a few days after an investigator arrived for a fact-finding mission on what transpired before the crash.
The investigator, Ralph Hicks, said the victims, 44-year-old Patrick Eudy, of Mt. Pleasant, and 69-year-old Robert Ulrich, of Idaho, lost contact with air traffic control at 4:46 p.m. Both men were pilots flying "an instructional flight," according to Hicks.
The pilots departed from Charleston Executive Airport on Johns Island on a training flight to Georgetown Airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The plane, a Rockwell Turbo Commander 690, crashed into a heavily-wooded area of the Francis Marion Forest at a 41-degree angle with a right bank of 42-degrees at 5:10 p.m. Hicks said the crash site, found almost an hour later, was roughly 290 feet by 40 feet and the plane was fragmented in five different sections. Charleston County Sheriff's Major Jim Brady said the site was located in the area of South Tibwin Road.
The investigator said there were no indications of distress before the crash, although the flight path shows some erratic motion prior to the crash.
In newly-released 911 audio tapes, a woman reported to emergency dispatchers that she, her husband and another person at her home on Highway 17 North in McClellanville heard a plane's motor making noises before crashing.
"I heard an airplane making very peculiar noises," the woman reported."Three of us heard it crash and I think it's just north of here...the motor of the plane was acting up and then we heard it crash."
The NTSB will remained at the site over the weekend. The sections of the plane were loaded onto a flatbed truck and taken to Atlanta Air Recovery in Georgia.
The investigation is ongoing.
It appears one of the victims, Eudy, owned or was part-owner of the 11-seat, 2-engine plane. Eudy was president of a Matthews, NC-based telecommunications company called American Broadband, the company confirmed Friday. Flight records show the plane involved in the crash was owned by Nighthawk Air LLC, which has the same business address as American Broadband.
"He's a great guy," said Eudy's friend, John Bowden who was part of a sailing team with Eudy. "He was super generous and a super father."
According to Bowden, the flight Eudy and Ulrich took together was to re-certify Eudy on the aircraft which Bowden said belonged to Eudy.
Investigators say Ulrich was guiding Eudy through a training lesson to re-certify him on his plane. According to a testimonial left for a company called access Flight Training, Ulrich was an experienced pilot.
The testimonial claims Ulrich brought a lot of practical experience with him as a commercial pilot and instructor in the cockpit.