Officials are still investigating the cause of a Monday morning plane crash in North Bryan County that claimed the lives of all three people on board.
Bryan County Emergency Services Chief Freddy Howell said the Federal Aviation Administration and NTSB are on site and that it could take several days for them to determine what happened. The single-engine plane went down in a swampy, heavily wooded area of North Bryan, near the Effingham County line.
Killed in the crash were William Cocke, 42, and Catherine Cocke, 39, of Savannah, along with the pilot of the chartered plane that was flying the couple from Savannah to Cobb County. The couple leaves behind five children ranging in age from 10 months to 13 years. The pilot has been identified as Randy Hunter of Tyrone.
Howell said the FAA contacted his agency around 9:30 a.m. saying the plane was flying at an altitude of about 300 feet before it crashed.
The wreckage of the aircraft was found at 11:18 a.m. when it was spotted by a Coast Guard helicopter. Searchers included Bryan County Emergency Services, Bryan County Sheriff’s Office, Effingham County Sheriff’s Office and Effingham County Emergency Services. Emergency personnel used ATVs to get to the aircraft. It was located off of Eldora and Croft roads.
Howell said about 40 to 50 personnel were involved in the search, which included two boats on the Ogeechee River. There was no fire from the crash, so Howell said searchers could not locate it by following black smoke. Some media are reporting that the pilot radioed that he was having engine trouble and that he was attempting to return to Savannah.
Authorities have closed off the area.
“It’s very heavily wooded,” Howell said. “Georgia Forestry cut a path for us to access the site.”
The Bryan County Coroner’s Office arrived at the scene about 12:30 p.m. Monday. Officials said all three occupants of the plane died on impact.
The plane had reportedly taken off from Savannah and was headed to Cobb County when it went down. Howell said the Beechcraft Bonanza, bearing the tail identification of N87RY, was chartered from Falcon Field near Atlanta through a private company to pick its passengers up in Savannah and fly them to Cobb County.
A woman driving a vehicle with a Chatham County license plate showed up at the Bryan County Emergency Services staging site at the Georgia Forestry office on Eldora Road around 1 p.m. Monday. She was visibly upset and crying. Howell later identified her as a nanny for the Cocke family.
Howell asked the public to pray for the victims as well as the first responders involved.
“The rescue people are just as traumatized about a situation like this as the general public is,” Howell said of those who located the crash and found the bodies.
Jeff Whitten contributed to this report.