One Injured, Two Lost In Nighttime Mishap
Investigators report a Piper PA-32 Lance, that went down
early Monday while attempting to land at Andrews-Murphy Airport in
North Carolina, struck power lines before falling short of the
runway. A Murphy surgeon, Dr. Larry Opoliner, was critically
injured in the accident, and two other men were killed.
Airport manager Dan Ellis told the Asheville Citizen-Times the
aircraft crashed just after midnight. Sheriff Keith Lovin said at
least one of the men worked in Cherokee County and the other lived
in the area.
FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said preliminary reports
indicate the plane hit power lines during its approach to land at
the airport. The plane, which had been traveling from Orlando
Executive Airport in Florida, was registered to Damien O'Neill of
Franklin, Bergen said.
O'Neill has been identified by officials as the pilot of the
aircraft, reports WVFF-4. (Earlier reports cited by ANN,
stating Opoliner was at the controls, have been recounted --
NTSB investigators are onsite to determine exactly why the plane
crashed on Airport Road, about 500 feet north of the approach end
to runway 8.
Cherokee County EMS Paramedic Ben English said 911 calls began
shortly after 12:30 a.m. Emergency personnel found Opoliner sitting
about 10 feet from the burning wreckage. He was airlifted to
Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga, TN in critical
Ellis said landing at RHP at night can be tricky, as it's
uncontrolled. The field does have pilot-controlled lighting.
"It's really a pretty safe airport," said Andrews Fire
Department Lt. Rick Trammel, a pilot. "You just never know."