RALEIGH -- The North Carolina State Highway Patrol confirmed two people died in an apparent plane crash Sunday night at Umstead State Park in Raleigh. The agency confirmed the deaths after search crews found the missing plane that disappeared from radar at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
Crews found wreckage of the private plane on Umstead State Park's Reedy Creek Multi-Use Trail Monday around 10 a.m.
The two people who died have been identified as Dr. Harvey Partridge and Patricia Partridge, both 72, of Terra Ceia, Florida.
The pilot, Dr. Harvey Partridge, is a veterinarian in Florida. His wife, affectionately called Pat, was also on board when the plane went down.
Dr. Partridge founded an animal hospital near Tampa.
The 72-year-old was described as an experienced pilot.
Below is a statement from the Partridge Animal Hospital, and its staff:
The staff of Partridge Animal Hospital is devastated to announce the death of our founder Dr. Harvey Partridge and his wife Pat in a plane crash last night in Raleigh, N.C. The plane was owned by Dr. Partridge, who was an experienced pilot. There were no other passengers aboard. While our staff will be on site to care for pets at the hospital, we are rescheduling today's appointments and will have our phones turned off for the day. We will make sure that anyone with a pet currently staying at our hospital can reach us, and we are referring emergency calls to Tampa Bay Veterinary Specialists at (727) 531-5752.
Dr. Partridge was a truly wonderful doctor and advocate for animals, and he and his wife will be terribly missed by our staff and clients. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, and we appreciate your understanding during this difficult time.
Partridge was known as a champion for animals --including the police K9s at St. Pete Police.
"Just a warm person, just a nice human being; definitely going to be missed," said Sgt. Todd Hancock.
"Titan," a K9 officer, was shot by a suspect in March. Partridge nursed the animal back to health. The dog is now back in service.
"Multiple times (the Partridges) actually come out in the middle of the night to service some of our dogs that have been hurt," added Sgt. Christopher Turbee. "(The family) is so very accommodating. We're very thankful for everything they've always done for us."
The plane was on approach from Columbus, Georgia.
"Our condolences go out to the family and friends of the Partridges," said Michael Landguth, president and CEO of the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority. "I want to thank our mutual aid partners for their collaborative effort throughout this difficult event."
Chopper11 HD showed part of the plane stuck along some trees in the park. The crash site was just over a mile southeast of Runway 32, near Reedy Creek Road.
"This morning after a very exhaustive search, the missing aircraft was located near the Reedy Creek Creek Multi-Use Trail at Umstead State Park," said Sgt. Baker with the Highway Patrol. "I can confirm as a result of this crash, two casualties were located by investigators. Responders are continuing to evaluate the site. We ask that everyone avoid the area until further notice."
According to RDU, the plane disappeared from radar Sunday evening as it was landing just before 7:25. The airport said a small general aviation aircraft approaching RDU was lost on radar somewhere near the park.
An alert issued by the FAA said the aircraft was a Piper PA32 headed to Runway 32 when contact was lost.
The park is roughly 5,200 acres of dense forest just east of the airport. There are few roads and little to no lights, which complicated the search. The park is closed Monday.
Park visitors were in shock as they approached the area Monday morning.
"It was just a very strange feeling that-that just when I decided to go for a walk-somebody lost their lives here," said Alex Bykhovski.
Sunday night, a Highway Patrol helicopter searched for a heat signature from the ground -- a signal typical of a crash landing. Fire and rescue crews left for the night around 3 a.m. The search resumed Monday around 6:30 a.m. The search grid inside the park was narrowed.
The Raleigh Fire Department led the search effort. RDU was briefly closed.
RDU airport personnel, North Carolina State Highway Patrol, N.C. Park Rangers, Raleigh Police Department, Wake County EMS, Wake County Sheriff's Department, Wake County Emergency Management, Wake County Fire Services, Durham Highway Fire Department, Cary Fire Department and Cary EMS are all assisted in the search.