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Victims identified in Winston-Salem plane crash

Posted on: 12:32 pm, April 1, 2013, by , updated on: 06:49pm, April 1, 2013

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Authorities said the victims in a fatal plane crash Sunday afternoon in Winston-Salem were a husband and his wife.

Officials said the plane and crashed into a wooded area at 900 Kearns Avenue, between Kearns and Chatham Farm Road at around 12:50 p.m.

Authorities said 58-year-old Dennis Alan O’Neal and 56-year-old Deborah Dee O’Neal, both of Blounts Creek, were pronounced dead.

911 calls flooded in just after the plane narrowly missed the houses.

Witnesses say they did not hear the engine, but only saw the small plane flying low surrounded by heavy smoke.

“As a former flight attendant i feel strongly that this pilot knew exactly what he was doing that he was headed to a place that looked uninhabited,” said Mary Lea Bradford, who lives near the crash site.

Authorities described the plane as a “fixed-wing, single-engine Lancair LC-42” that departed from North Wilkesboro around 12:35 p.m. and was headed to Washington, N.C.

Air traffic controllers were trying to divert the plane to Smith Reynolds Airport, but with clouds reported a thousand feet up, investigators can’t say for sure if the pilot had time to pinpoint a landing spot.

“If someone were to represent what they saw as an attempt by the pilot to avoid homes or people, I wouldn’t dispute it,” said Brian Raynor, an NTSB investigator.

Officials said the aircraft was destroyed by fire. They said the pilot reported a partial loss of engine power.

Officials said the plane did not hit any structures or people on the ground, but it did miss hitting some homes by about 50 yards. About $500,000 in property was damaged, authorities said. They said the couple’s dog was also killed.

O’Neal was an eye doctor at Washington Eye Clinic in Washington, N.C., which is in Beaufort County, according to the clinic’s website. O’Neal, 58, had a wife named Debbie Dee O’Neal, and three children. O’Neal lists flying as one of his interests.

Authorities said the plane was registered to Dennis O’Neal.