Those who live in the residential area of northeastern Forsyth near Laker Lanier where a small plane crashed Thursday night, killing its two occupants, won’t soon forget the incident.
“We heard a plane having issues and we looked up and we saw this plane kind of spiraling, making noises, sputtering, dying out and then we heard a thud,” said Denny Brase, who saw the crash while out for a nightly walk with his wife.
The aircraft, which Brase described as “an experimental kit plane,” landed face down about 7:45 p.m. near Lanier and Bamby drives.
“We started running toward the area,” he said. “It pretty well came straight down. There was no dipping or anything.”
Investigators with the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are trying to determine what may have caused the accident.
The two men aboard who died were both Forsyth County residents. According to the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, the pilot was Don Hershall Hall, 45, and the passenger was 40-year-old David Jason Schorr.
Sheriff’s Capt. Tim House said the single-engine plane had left earlier that night from Stoney Point Airfield in south Forsyth.
It was not immediately clear how long it had been in the air or where the men were heading.
No one on the ground was injured and no property was damaged, authorities said.
“There were a lot of people out and about at that time of night, walking and bicycling in the area, so it’s a fortunate thing … that no one on the ground was affected,” said Forsyth County Fire Division Chief Jason Shivers.
Those sentiments were echoed by the Rev. John Martin, pastor of the nearby church, which sits just yards from where the plane came down.
“It was miraculous that [the pilot] missed power lines, churches, houses, kids and so forth,” said Martin, who added that he believes the pilot intentionally steered the plane to that spot.
“This is a congested area … there’s not a lot of empty space, but he managed to come down right in the middle of it. We are lifting up prayers for the families of the two men that were killed.”
Attempts to reach the families of the two men Friday were not successful, and funeral arrangements have not been announced.
According to the FAA Web site, the fixed-wing, single-engine aircraft was built by Hall and completed in 2009. The registered owner was Wilmington, Del.-based Donka.net Inc.
Arlene Salac, an FAA spokeswoman, said all registered aircraft are “inspected by the FAA at certain points along the way to make sure that it’s air worthy.”
Once the plane is complete, it undergoes a final inspection by the FAA and receives a registration number, she said.
Friday, neighbors recalled hearing a boom preceded by what one man described as a chainsaw-like sound.
Many neighbors gathered around the crash site, which is not far from Shady Grove Park, in attempt to see what was going on. According to Brase, it resembled a scene from a movie.
“There was a lot of confusion,” he said. “It’s not unusual for planes to be stalling over the lake. They must practice that stall technique. But when we looked up to this one, it didn’t come out. It just started spiraling down.”
Martin said he arrived at the church about 10 minutes later. Neighbors were upset over the severity of the incident and many had to park at the church and walk home since the wreckage blocked traffic in both directions on Lanier Drive for hours.
Public safety crews were unable to move the aircraft to the roadside until after 11 p.m.
Shivers credited Deer Creek Shores Presbyterian for playing an integral role in the response, offering coffee, food and “allowing the church to be accessible by firefighters and law enforcement on the scene to have facilities to use.”
“They kept us fed and hydrated,” Shivers said. “We’re very appreciative of their support. Some from their staff rotated shifts throughout the night and kept someone available for us throughout the evening. That’s certainly going above and beyond.”