Investigation continues, and mourners speak about victims - KNOE 8 News; KNOE-TV; KNOE.com |

Investigation continues, and mourners speak about victims in plane crash

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OAK RIDGE La. (KNOE 8 News) - A two-person plane crashed in a heavily wooded area in a riverbed off of Rolfe Lane in Morehouse Parish.

"We traveled out here and we're conducting the on scene portion of the investigation. Where we go in and we look at the whole air craft," said Leah Yeager, NTSB Senior Air Safety Investigator.

Yeager said they're looking at log books and weather conditions at the time 28-year old Jonathan Whitacer and 74-year old Clarence Collins "also known as Ed" were flying.

Collins was an instructor at flying tiger aviation out of Rayville for four years, and he was training Whitacer how to dust crops at the time of the fatal crash.

Investigators said they have recovered all parts of the small Citabria trainer plane.

"A GPS, a global positioning system, and we did retrieve that and were going to send it up to headquarters to our recording division to see if they can get any data off of it," said Yeager.

Whitacer was from Indiana and had been training about 30 hours before the crash, and Collins from Lincoln Parish had been an instructor for four years.

Officials at Flying Tiger Aviation said this is the first and only crash in 15 years and crew members at a Rayville company are trying to make sense of losing the experienced pilot and a young trainee.

"We are, we're terribly upset," said Robert McCurdy, Flying Tiger Aviation Chief Pilot.

Flying Tiger Aviation crew members are mourning the deaths of instructor Collins and his trainee Whitacer.

"Everything is grounded right now. We're not flying. And we'll probably get re-grouped and start again next week," said McCurdy. "He was an excellent instructor, an excellent pilot, had a good rapport with all of us here at Flying Tiger, and all of his students.

Employees at flying tiger aviation said Whitacer was the kind of young flyer they love to have, because his enthusiasm was contagious.

He had been here, flown about 30 plus hours with us and got along with all the other students and instructors," said McCurdy.   

And Robert McCurdy says this plane is very similar to the one that Collins and Whitacer were flying in at the time of the crash.

Collins co-worker's are confused, and are still wondering how the crash happened.

"In 15 years that we've been here, this is the first accident in which anyone had ever been hurt," said McCurdy.

Collins was Flying Tiger Aviation's most experienced instructor.

"A highly experienced pilot which leaves us very much bewildered as to why this even happened," said McCurdy.

Friday morning NTSB and FAA Investigators were at the scene of the crash starting the process of figuring out just what happened Thursday morning.

Investigators tell us the plane was not carrying any of the materials used to dust crops at the time of the crash.

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