The Navy has confirmed that two Navy pilots assigned to the Naval Air Station in Pensacola died in a plane crash near Selma, Alabama, June 10 while attempting to make an emergency landing. Tragically, the plane never made it to the Selma airport, but crashed in nearby Sardis, Alabama.
Dallas County District Attorney Michael Jackson identified the Navy pilots as Commander Joshua Fuller and Captain Vincent Segars, according to the WKRG News 5 Mobile. The men reportedly were flying from Jasper, Alabama, to Pensacola in a single-engine Piper PA-32 that Cmdr. Fuller owned.
Dallas County Coroner Alan Dailey told the Selma Times-Journal that the Cmdr. Fuller, who was piloting the plane, issued a distress call before the plane went down in Sardis, Alabama, off of Dallas County Road 138 near the J.B. Hain farming community. The plane crash occurred around 4:40 p.m. Wednesday.
“They declared an emergency landing and was trying to land at Craig Field,” Mr. Dailey said. “A crop duster was up and spotted the plane. There was nothing that could be done.”
The plane was apparently attempting to land at Craig Field in Selma. Authorities haven’t said whether the pilot indicated to air traffic controllers what was wrong with the plane. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will lead an investigation of the crash.
According to the Times-Journal, at least one local resident saw the plane crash. A Sardis resident who saw the aircraft go down described it as “horrifying.”
Cmdr. Fuller was the former Commanding Officer of the “Sabrehawks” of Training Squadron (VT) 86, which trains some of the top combat-quality naval flight officers in the world. The level of training and experience both pilots had indicates it is unlikely that pilot error played a role in the crash.
A storm system associated with Tropical Storm Cristobal moved through the area on Wednesday, but it’s unknown if those conditions contributed in some way to the crash. NTSB investigators will also look into whether the airplane had mechanical or maintenance problems.
Beasley Allen lawyer Mike Andrews focuses much of his practice on aviation litigation. He said, “Any loss of life is a tragedy, but the loss of such experienced aviators and servicemen is truly tragic and raises serious questions about the cause of this crash. Preliminary reports indicated that this plane may have refueled at the Selma airfield. However, later reports indicate that the plane was actually on a direct flight to Pensacola when it suffered catastrophic engine trouble in-flight and was unable to make it to Selma before it crashed. We are continuing to learn more as this investigation proceeds and our hearts are certainly with the families of these two men.”
Mike currently represents families of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 victims involving the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. In addition to his Ethiopian Airlines crash clients, Mike has represented people seriously injured in a variety of aviation crashes, and the families of those killed in both civilian and military airplane crashes and helicopter crashes.