Friday, November 21, 2003

Three die when plane crashes near college

Single-engine craft falls after takeoff

The Associated Press

SOMERSET, Ky. - Three people were killed Thursday when a single-engine airplane that had just taken off crashed in a wooded area on a community college campus in south central Kentucky.

Witnesses told authorities they heard the plane's engine sputtering shortly after takeoff, acting city Police Chief Ron Swartz said. The plane then made a left turn and started losing altitude, he said.

The plane, a 1958 Beechcraft Bonanza, turned back toward Somerset-Pulaski County Airport but clipped a row of trees and crashed about 1,000 feet from the runway on the campus of Somerset Community College, Swartz said.

The three victims were identified as Terry Sumpter, 47, of Monticello; Brian Roberts, 24, of Somerset, and James McGettigan, 60, of Marlton, N.J.

Sumpter was found sitting in the pilot's seat and Roberts in the copilot's seat, but authorities were not sure who was flying the plane.

All three died at the scene, police said.

The plane took off about 8:30 a.m. EST, but authorities said they did not know where it was headed.

After the plane hit the ground, it bounced once and came to rest upside down, said Pulaski County Public Safety Director Gilbert "Tiger" Robinson.

The crash site was on the northeast corner of the campus, about a quarter-mile from any buildings. There were no injuries on the ground.

Federal Aviation Administration investigators arrived at the crash site Thursday afternoon.

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