THOMSON, Ga. (WJBF) — Two people are dead following a plane crash in Thomson. The Dassault Falcon business jet was traveling from Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport to the Thomson-McDuffie County Regional Airport early Tuesday morning. At 6:26 a.m., the plane was reported missing. It was discovered around 7 a.m. in a privately-owned field near the 3100 block of Wrightsboro Road, just a few miles from its destination.
The two people onboard were pronounced dead at the scene. They have been identified by the McDuffie County coroner as 73-year-old Raymond Bachman of Fountain Hills, Arizona and 63-year-old Claude Duschesne of El Paso, Texas. Their bodies have been transported to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Crime Lab to be autopsied.
The McDuffie County Sheriff’s Office and EMS arrived on scene, followed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which will lead the investigation.
According to Adam Gerhardt, an NTSB senior air safety investigator, this was a cargo flight. It was “on approach to land” and clipped trees before crashing. The plane did not catch fire. No distress calls were made prior to the crash.
An NTSB team will be on scene for two to four days gathering evidence before the plane is transported to Griffin, Georgia. A cockpit voice recorder has been recovered from the wreckage, which will be crucial to the investigation.
The NTSB will release a preliminary report in the next 10 days. A final report is not expected to be released for 16 to 24 months.
The incident was startling to residents who live nearby, including Sammy McCorkle, who lives on the property next to the crash site.
“It was a little scary,” he said. “If it hadn’t crashed there, it was headed for this tree up here if it was that low.”
“This plane missed a house by probably less than 200 feet,” Paul McCorkle added. “It was very evident that it was really low to the ground. It hit pine trees that were probably 40 feet tall. The plane was mighty low, and it was still over a half mile from the airport.”
Paul and Sammy McCorkle tell NewsChannel 6 that people who live in the area worry about planes flying low as they approach the nearby airport. This is now the second fatal plane crash in eight years in McDuffie County. In 2013, a crash claimed the lives of five people, all employees of the medical group — The Vein Guys.
“We’ve had complaints for years over planes coming into this airport,” Paul McCorkle said. “[The complaints are about planes] being low and probably being below the normal airspace that they should be in. It’s been a constant problem.”
“We’ve always had concerns since they’ve made some expansions [at the airport],” Sammy McCorkle added.
The NTSB held a press conference Tuesday afternoon:
The FAA released the following statement:
A Dassault Falcon business jet crashed near Wrightsboro Road in Thomson, Ga., around 5:44 a.m. local time today. Two people were aboard. The plane was flying from Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport in Lubbock, Texas, to Thomson-McDuffie County Airport.
The FAA will release the tail number of the aircraft after investigators verify it at the accident site. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation and will provide additional updates. Neither agency identifies people involved in aircraft accidents.Maria Njoku
Public Affairs Specialist
Count on NewsChannel 6 for more details as they become available.