Investigators suspicions that the two victims of Sunday’s fatal plane crash in Warren County have ties to the area were confirmed Monday evening as the names of those fatalities were revealed.
The victims have been identified as Eric Hackney, 43, and Jesse Loy, 36, both of Punta Gorda, Fla. Hackney and Loy were flying in from Florida to visit friends in Warren County when their plane went down in woods along the Little Miami River.
“They both died from the impact, blunt force trauma,” Doyle Burke, chief investigator, Warren County Coroner’s Office said Monday evening. “What brought them down, that’ll be the NTSB.”
Results of autopsies completed Monday at the Miami Valley Crime Lab were used in determining the identities of the victims of the third fatal plane crash in the area in less than three months.
A forensic dental team was expected to begin reviewing evidence about 6 p.m. Monday.
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Alan Wolfson, manager of the Warren County Airport outside Lebanon, said the crash did not involve a plane based there. Likewise, staff at the Red Stewart Airfield outside Waynesville said the plane was not based there.
The Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport north of Springboro has been closed for construction since Friday.
About noon Monday, investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) traveled in an off-road caravan to the crash site, on state land near Camp Kern and the Little Miami River.
But efforts to talk with NTSB about the crash were unsuccessful and the Ohio Highway Patrol referred questions to NTSB.
What we know about Sunday’s fatal crash
Emergency crews were first dispatched around 5:45 p.m. Sunday after callers reported smoke and flames coming from a low-flying plane.
“I think I may have just heard a small plane crash,” said a man who called in the crash, while walking near the Morgan Canoe Livery on the east side of the river.
“It sounded fine but it was very low,” Thipeault said. “Then I heard a couple pops and a bang. I think I saw a puff of smoke in the distance coming up from the ground.”
The crash scene is in a remote, wooded area, east of Lebanon in Turtlecreek Twp., on property near the Riverside Church of God camp between the YMCA camp and Moore-Saur Road.
A second caller said he saw the plane crash across the river, while riding along on the bike path wearing headphones.
“I can’t get any closer,” he said from the trail along the river. “I do see flames.”
This caller asked if he could help with the rescue.
“I’m debating to swim across the river. I can’t imagine there could be any survivors,” he said.
On Monday, the WHIO Sky 7 drone made several short flights near the crash site, about a mile south of where the Ohio 350 bridge crosses the river. High winds and a dense canopy of trees prevented the drone from recording video of the site.
Yellow crime-scene tape was stretched along the western shore of the river bank — the eastern edge of the crsh site.
On Sunday, ATVs and boats were used to get to the site. A fire was put out without it spreading beyond the crash area.
The two-seat prop plane was heavily damaged, with witnesses spotting pieces hanging from trees.
Authorities were still working on Monday to identify its tail number.
Dirk Morgan said he looked up to see the smoking plane fall out of the sky Sunday.
“It came right through the treetops and then crashed to the floor,” said Morgan, owner of Morgan Riverside Camps on the Little Miami River.
Morgan used his knowledge of the rough terrain to help firefighters and first responders reach the crash site – roughly at the bottom of a cliff near the river.
“It’s an extremely steep hill, probably 300 vertical feet just to get down to the river valley — no roads, no trails,” said Morgan, a member of the family also operating a canoe rental business on the river.
“I went up to Moore-Saur Road to my neighbors’ property — the Church of God camp. First responders were there, and I helped them go over the hill and carry equipment down the hill,” Morgan said in an interview with WCPO TV.
“I had to make two trips down to try to help them bring fire extinguishers and pick axes. … It was so steep you had to hold onto small saplings to keep from sliding 50 feet down the hill. So coming back up it was almost all fours, and I felt bad for the firefighters because they were in full turnout gear.”
Morgan said firefighters had to stop three times before reaching the spot.
Other firefighters arriving later took boats on the river or ATVs guided by GPS.
Morgan, one of the first at the scene, said he cringed at what he saw. The plane had sawed off trees as it fell.
“There were pieces of trees and then I kind of looked up. There was an opening in the big Sycamore trees that were down there and there were parts of the plane hanging from the tree limbs,” Morgan said.
“I just know I saw the smoking remains of what appeared to be a plane and parts, and I prayed for the families who lost their loved ones.