Two dead in Ohio County plane crash

Published 4:23 pm Thursday, September 28, 2023

By Jake Moore, Bowling Green Daily News

Two people were killed in a Wednesday night plane crash in rural Ohio County.

Ohio County Sheriff Adam Wright said the plane was found Thursday morning near the Ohio and Daviess County line close to Hwy. 764.

The four-passenger private aircraft, a Piper PA 28-161, had two known occupants – a pilot school instructor and a student. According to Kentucky State Police personnel, both were found deceased Thursday morning.

Wright said the plane departed from Owensboro and completed a touchdown in Bowling Green before heading back late Wednesday evening, getting caught in a thunderstorm along the way.

The region saw numerous pop-up thunderstorms overnight, creating an atmosphere of heavy rain, wind and hail.

“We cannot confirm whether the storm played a vital role in the crash,” KSP Trooper Corey King said. “However, we can conclude at this point that likely was the reasoning for the plane going down.”

Wright said the Daviess County Sheriff’s Department received a call from Evansville Regional Airport tower control about a possible airplane crash at around 10:55 p.m. Wednesday night.

King said the tower had been following the plane on radar before it disappeared and had last been seen near the Whitesville community.

Search and rescue crews were able to ping the pilot’s cell phone and paper debris was found in the area, narrowing the site of search. Wright said two aircraft were in the air looking for the plane last night but had to come down due to rain.

King said a plane beacon was spotted by a drone at around 9 a.m. Thursday morning, later finding what appeared to be a wing to the craft. Crews on ATVs were able to access the debris to confirm it was indeed the plane.

“Once the crews were inside of the debris field, they did locate two bodies, assuming it was the pilot and the student of the pilot,” King said.

He said there was “no indication” that the two would have survived if they had been found immediately following the crash. He said that it was his understanding that both the instructor and student were very young, in their late teens to early 20s.

King said KSP is confirming the pair’s identities and that family members have been notified, but at this time no other information about the victims is available. Autopsies are pending.

King said the flight was a planned course as pilots have to complete a certain number of nighttime flight hours to obtain a license. Persons familiar with the instructor said they were a member of Owensboro’s Eagle Flight Academy.

King said that, to his knowledge, no mayday distress call was given by the pilot. He said that flight patterns indicate that the occupants did try to avert or attempt to maneuver around an incoming storm.

“At that point, it looked like maybe a downdraft or something had pushed the plane down rapidly,” King said. “… As it was crashing into the wood line, it was starting to tear apart.”

He added that the debris field was roughly half a mile wide from the point of impact to the craft’s final place of rest.

Both the Daviess and Ohio County Sheriff’s Departments assisted KSP at the scene, along with local emergency management personnel, volunteer fire departments and both the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

Besides drones and ATVs, Wright said horses were used as part of the search and the Green River Firefighter Academy brought 33 of its students to the area to assist.

King said both the FAA and KSP will be investigating the incident with assistance from the NTSB.