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story.lead_photo.caption The burnt wreckage of a single-engine airplane lays among the trees on Crow Mountain in Russellville. ( Benjamin Krain)

The pilot of a plane that crashed into Crow Mountain on Thursday did not radio anyone for help in the moments before the accident that killed himself and three others, the Russellville airport's manager said Friday.

Gallery: Pope County plane crash

All that aviation officials know is the pilot's "normal departure radio" information, said Keith Frazier, manager of the Russellville Regional Airport. "There were no distress calls that anyone is aware of at this point."

The pilot of the single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza was taking three members of a family from Russellville to Knoxville, Tenn., where they had planned to attend services for a relative who died earlier in the week, the Pope County coroner and a family member said Thursday.

Edward Burl "Ed" Harris, who died Monday, was to be buried in Tennessee on Thursday afternoon.

Coroner Danny White said Friday that the sheriff's office has decided not to release the names of the four people until the state medical examiner's office positively identifies the bodies.

Because a fire that broke out damaged the bodies, authorities must await DNA test results to confirm the identities, White said.

"It could take about a week," he said.

White also said the medical examiner's office doesn't know yet if the victims died from the fire or from the impact of the crash into the mountain's tree-lined terrain.

Frazier said the pilot was a Russellville-area man who had flown the plane more than once before and who would have known that Crow Mountain was nearby.

Also Friday, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board arrived at the crash site, which is privately owned mountain property near Pottsville that is about three miles east of the airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration referred questions Friday to the safety board.

In Russellville, Pope County authorities released an audio recording of the 911 call in which the property owner on the mountain reported the crash at about 8:14 a.m. Thursday.

"I think a plane or something crashed into the side of my hill," says the man, identified on the recording only as "Kevin."

"For real?" the dispatcher says.

"Yeah, it's on fire," he replies.

"Oh, crap, OK," the dispatcher says. "Do you really think it was a plane crash?"

"Well, there's parts of metal. Yeah, I'm pretty sure it is."

"OK, what's your address, Kevin?"

"Van Horn Road."

"OK, well, we'll get the Fire Department out there and send a deputy, too. OK?"

"They crashed into the wall and everything. It's right on the driveway. You can see where they come through the trees and chipped the side of the hill. But it's on fire."

"OK, do you see an airplane?" the dispatcher asks.

"I can see parts of it," he says.

"Parts of the airplane, OK."

"Yep, I'm going up to the top or the hill. I'll see what I can see."

In Washington, safety board spokesman Eric Weiss said the plane's tail number typically is not released until the board issues a preliminary report.

Weiss said an initial FAA report indicates the plane crashed at 7:52 a.m., but the airport manager said Friday that was the approximate takeoff time.

Weiss said investigators would "be preserving what we call perishable evidence ... such as skid marks or dirt marks ... tree snaps" and the like.

"They're going to document the wreckage. ... They're also going to look for any witnesses," as well as radar data and meteorological information, he said.

The area was foggy Thursday morning, though no rain was reported.

Investigators also will look "for non-volatile memory," which refers to electronics such as GPS units or cellular phones that could help the investigators understand what went on "in those last moments," Weiss said.

"We will be looking through all the records of the [pilot], the machinery and the environment," he added.

State Desk on 10/31/2015

Print Headline: Airport: Pilot sent no signals of distress


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