Heather Goodrich and her husband Kent were driving home from church on Sunday when they noticed an unusual sight. As they approached The Chimneys, their subdivision that sits adjacent to the football stadium and the practice fields on the Starr’s Mill High School property, they saw a small plane flying “really low.”
“I thought for sure the plane was going to crash into the school because of the angle,” said Goodrich, the mother of Panther quarterback junior Satchel Goodrich.
The plane didn’t hit the school, but it crash landed around 1 p.m. on the marching band’s practice field, which is situated between the baseball and softball fields.
“The aircraft was level at 6,000 feet, 15 miles east of Peachtree City when the pilot declared an emergency,” said Ron Romuno, FAA Safety Office Investigator at the Atlanta TRACON on Hwy. 74. “The pilot asked the controller to provide the nearest airport. Peachtree City’s Falcon Field was the closest, and the controller told the pilot where to look.”
Romuno said the pilot told the controller that he had the airport in sight and tried to make an emergency landing but “soon realized that he wasn’t going to have the altitude to glide there,” Romuno said.
That was the pilot’s last communication with controllers. The aircraft “bounced three or four times and slid to a stop, spilling a large amount of the 160 gallons of jet fuel on board onto the field,” Romuno said.
According to FAA officials, the plane, a single engine turboprop with a Pratt & Whitney engine, departed from Peachtree DeKalb Airport and was headed to the Harris County Airport in Pine Mountain. “Between the first sign of trouble and the aircraft crash-landing on the field was less than four minutes,” Romuno said.
Goodrich said that by the time she and her husband arrived at the scene, several people were already trying to help the crash victims, who were still inside the plane. “I called 911,” Goodrich said, “and then I then walked over to the plane and talked to the couple. Bystanders were keeping the victims conscious by asking them questions.”
According to the FAA, the pilot, Shelby McCalleb, and his wife Cynthia suffered “fairly serious cuts and injuries.” They were transported by ambulance to an area hospital.
The Chimneys resident Abel Tinsley said he got a good look at what happened. He was driving home from church with his father when the plane crashed.
“The plane hit the tops of some trees in The Chimneys before landing on the practice field,” said Tinsley, who is homeschooled. “The right wing hit first, spinning the plane around until it skidded to a stop facing the bus loop. It flew over our car and hit some trees in our yard.”
Some people who witnessed the plane brush over the subdivision’s treetops ran over to assist the two people on board almost immediately after the crash. The field is normally used for the marching band to practice on. Principal Audrey Toney said that luckily, because it was Sunday, “no one was practicing on the field at the time of the crash.”