Plane crashes in Burlington, pilot killed

Aircraft went down into ball field at community center near Burlington-Alamance Regional Airport Wednesday morning (ABC11 Reporter Anthony Wilson)
January 16, 2013 2:29:44 PM PST
Police say a pilot was killed early Wednesday morning when his small plane crashed into a softball field near a community center not far from the Burlington-Alamance Regional Airport.

It happened around 6 a.m., shortly after takeoff.

The North Park Community Center is near the intersection of Sharpe Road and Melrose Drive -- about 5 miles away from the airport.

? Click here for a map of the area ?

Nearby homeowners said they saw the plane was on fire before it hit the ground.

"There was fire in it already," resident Clara Moore said. "I'm dialing 911 and next thing I know, it just dropped ... fire just went all over the place. I could see the pieces just flying up in the air. Heartbreaking, your heart was in your mouth because you couldn't do nothing."

"The whole park just lit up," eyewitness Delores Burrell said. "So, I ran to the other bedroom and I woke my granddaughter up and we ran outside, but we couldn't get near because it was still burning."

The Burlington Police Department said most of the wreckage covered the field. According to sources looking into the crash, it appeared that the pilot was trying to avoid residential areas.

The field is across the street from DJ Johnson's house. He said he watched the crash happen from his window.

"It was a ball of fire, I saw it come from this angle," Johnson said. " It hit here, exploded. I'm pretty sure [the pilot] was conscious enough and aware of the situation to at least avoid the houses and get in this open field.

Assistant Police Chief Chris Verdeck said the pilot was the only person onboard. No one on the ground was hurt.

He later identifed the pilot as 57-year-old David Gamble of Greensboro. Verdeck said he did not know if Gamble issued a distress call before the crash.

The FAA said the plane was a 1999 model Pilatus PC-12 - a single-engine turboprop passenger and cargo aircraft manufactured by Pilatus Aircraft of Switzerland. It reportedly was operated by Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings -- known as LabCorp -- an American medical testing company headquartered in Burlington.

A flight plan said the plane was leaving Burlington for Morristown, New Jersey, carrying interoffice mail to MMU Airport.

Verdeck said officials were concerned that the aircraft had as much as 400 gallons of fuel when it crashed.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will conduct an investigation into the crash.

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