Three people were killed in a small plane crash outside of Athens, Georgia, Tuesday afternoon, Oconee County officials confirmed.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the plane, a Piper PA-46 Malibu, crashed in a field in the rural Eastville community about 4:35 p.m., according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Eastville is located about 10 miles southwest of Athens. There were no survivors.
The plane was flying from Columbia Metropolitan Airport in South Carolina to Tuscaloosa National Airport in Alabama at the crash.
The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office said the plane crashed in the vicinity of Elder Road and Maxey Road after air traffic controllers in Oconee County lost contact with the pilot. There were explosions after the plane crashed, Greenville, South Carolina’s WYFF News 4 reported, citing local authorities.
According to Columbia, South Carolina’s WIS 10 News, officials have not yet identified the three people who died in the crash but on Wednesday said they were three businessmen from Texas.
Aviation Safety Network shows the plane had a registration number of N43368 and was operated by Triple 4 Aviation LLC, a Texas-based aviation company.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has sent a team of investigators to the crash site to open a crash probe. Investigators will review pilot training, experience, and response, the mechanical and structural integrity of the aircraft, maintenance records, weather conditions, and other environmental factors.
After a Piper PA-46 Malibu broke apart in mid-air in 2008 near Wainwright, Alberta, Canada, killing five businessmen, The Globe and Mail published an article, “Why does ‘a beautiful airplane’ break up in the sky?’” The story noted the poor safety record of that airplane model:
Although there are countless airplane accidents, structural failure is one of the least common causes. But it has not been a rarity with the Piper Malibu. Since it came to market in 1983, the Malibu and its derivatives have been involved in 12 crashes in which the airplane came apart in midair, killing everyone aboard. (Between 980 and 1,000 of the airplanes have been built.)
The structural failures are accompanied by a long list of other crashes involving PA-46s. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, there have been a total of 165 serious PA-46 crashes, a rate of more than 16 percent. These other crashes have been attributed to everything from engine failure to pilot error.
Mike Andrews, a lawyer in the firm’s Personal Injury and Products Liability section, focuses much of his practice on aviation accident litigation. He has represented people seriously injured in aviation crashes and the families of those killed in both civilian and military airplane crashes and helicopter crashes. Currently, Mike represents family members of victims in the Ethiopian Airlines crash involving the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.