Pilot killed when small plane crashes near Atlantic City

Posted: April 12, 2003

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — The pilot of a single-engine plane was killed late yesterday afternoon when his aircraft crashed a mile from the Atlantic City International Airport, authorities said.

The pilot, who was not identified by authorities, was approaching the airport at 4:40 p.m. when his Beechcraft Starfire Bonanza crashed in a wooded area off Manheim Road in Hamilton Township, said Gary Israel, spokesman for the South Jersey Transportation Authority.

The plane was on its final approach to land and the pilot did not declare any kind of emergency before the crash, Israel said. The airport control tower called an alert, he added, shortly after losing contact with the pilot.

"It went down very suddenly," said Israel, one of the first people to respond to the crash.

The plane was still on fire as a Coast Guard helicopter circled overhead and dozens of search and rescue personnel began to comb the area, trying to determine whether there were any other victims, Israel said.

The four-seater plane went down in rainy, foggy weather, crashing in a densely wooded area and breaking in half. The tail section was intact; but the rest of the plane was crumpled and blackened from the fire, authorities said.

Jim Peters of the Federal Aviation Administration said the plane, built in 1973, was registered to Ray's Aviation Inc. of Wilmington.

Peters said the pilot registered a flight plan, although details were not immediately available.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the aviation division of the state Department of Transportation were en route, Israel said. The Hamilton Township police will release the pilot's name, he continued, once his relatives are notified.

The pilot was a middle-aged man who did not operate from the Atlantic City airport and had not been there in recent days, Israel said. According to Peters, the pilot had taken off from Columbia, S.C.

The airport is about 10 miles west of Atlantic City and handles a variety of air traffic.

Contact staff writer Sam Wood at 856-779-3838 or at samwood@phillynews.com.

Staff writer Troy Graham contributed to this article, which also contains information from the Associated Press.

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