Two killed in NC plane crash were flight instructor, student: 'It's a tragedy'

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Monday, June 17, 2024
Flight instructor, student identified as 2 killed in NC plane crash
The FAA said the Piper PA-28 experienced engine issues after taking off from Raleigh Executive Jetport in Sanford, NC.

SILER CITY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Inside the Raleigh Executive Jetport near Sanford on Monday is a bright, yellow, flower bouquet in honor of McMillan Abernethy, a flight instructor from Beech Mountain who died along with a flight student in a plane crash in Chatham County on Friday.

"It's a tragedy," Noah Gunter said.

Gunter, who's a line service technician, said he refueled the plane they flew from the Raleigh Executive Jetport to Siler City before it crashed into trees and caught on fire about a mile away from the Siler City Municipal Airport on Friday afternoon.

The FAA said the aircraft, the Piper PA-28, experienced engine issues.

"It was very sudden," Gunter said. "I was hoping that they were OK, and it was really a shocker when it came back that they unfortunately passed away."

There have been at least five plane crashes in North Carolina this year, particularly with small aircraft. Gunter said aviation has vastly improved in safety, but in this industry, there are some things outside of your control.

"They're well maintained ... and they're still a very safe aircraft to train on and utilize when flying to your destination," Gunter said about the Piper PA-28. "Some things are just unavoidable."

Gunter said Abernethy is a "stand-up guy," who was always glad to talk about aviation.

"Always just catching up, seeing how things were going, really coming along in his flight career," he said.

A person who answered the door at the flight student, Justin Strauss' home in Raleigh on Monday declined to comment to ABC11.

"We hate that that they're both gone," Gunter said.

McMillan Abernethy
McMillan Abernethy