Monday, September 26

Coast Guard suspends search for plane crash victims


CARTERET COUNTY, NC (WITN) – The Coast Guard has suspended the search for passengers on board a plane that crashed off our coast.

Carteret County Sheriff Asa Buck says divers have found the cabin of an aircraft that crashed some three miles off the coast.

Buck said at an afternoon news conference that late Monday afternoon they located the fuselage in some 55 feet of water. The sheriff said dive teams began early Tuesday afternoon at the site in an effort to recover bodies and equipment that would help investigators determine what may have happened.

Buck would not say exactly how many of the eight bodies have been recovered at this point.

Eight people were on board the Pilatus PC-12/47 when it crashed Sunday afternoon while returning from a duck hunting trip to Hyde County.

The names provided by the Carteret County Sheriff’s Office are:

  • Ernest “Teen” Rawls, 67, Greenville, pilot
  • Jeffrey Rawls, 28, Greenville
  • Stephanie Fulcher, 42, Sea Level
  • Jonathan “Kole” McInnis, 15, Sea Level
  • Douglas “Hunter” Parks, 45, Sea Level
  • Noah Styron, 15, Cedar Island
  • Michael “Daily” Shepard, 15, Atlantic
  • Jacob “Jake” Taylor, 16, Atlantic

The family of Douglas “Hunter” Parks and company of Green Assets, of which Parks is the president and founder, released a statement about the crash:

The statement also said that they have no further comment at this time and ask that the privacy of all parties involved is respected.

The Coast Guard announced Tuesday that it has suspended its search for the passengers. The Coast Guard said that it will continue the recovery with one of its ships, but it is not actively searching for the passengers at this time.

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FAA records show Rawls has certificates as a commercial pilot, ground instructor, and mechanic. He has more than 20 years of experience in aviation, according to records.

Carteret County Schools confirms the four teens are sophomores at East Carteret High School, where a crisis team has been on campus since Monday morning.

Buck said the first priority of the search was to find and recover the passengers and the second was to find any equipment from the fuselage that could help them understand what happened. Some equipment, including some personal items and electronics, has been recovered.

The private plane took off from Hyde County Sunday afternoon en route to Beaufort. It crashed some four miles east of Drum Inlet, according to the US Coast Guard.

On Monday, Sheriff Asa Buck confirmed one body had been recovered and they were still searching for the plane’s fuselage.

Buck was emotional in his remarks Tuesday afternoon about the community, saying: “I’m the sheriff of everybody in this county and these are my people. It has been hard.”

However, I have noted that “we’re going to get through this together.”

Carteret County Superintendent Dr. Rob Jackson said that it has been an “honor and blessing” to experience the support from the community and witness the help from all those working on the search for the eight passengers of the plane.

Jackson says over the past two and a half days, he has “absolutely seen what it means to be Carteret strong.”

WITN has independently verified the name of a Greenville pilot who is believed to have died in a crash alongside seven other people Sunday.

An employer and friends confirmed to WITN that Teen Rawls was the pilot of the plane that crashed off Drum Inlet.

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Records show that Rawls has over 20 years of flight experience and has FAA certificates for commercial pilot, ground instructor, and mechanic.

The search for the plane’s fuselage and remains is entering its third day following a plane crash that happened over the weekend in Carteret County.

Coast Guard Cutter Richard Snyder stayed at the crash site overnight Monday, but officials say there are no new updates as of Tuesday morning.

Family members of those onboard the plane that crashed near the town of Atlantic shared the names of the kids who are among those feared lost Monday.

They told NBC News that among the eight onboard the plane were friends Kole McInnis, Daily Shepherd, Jake Taylor, and Noah Styron.

Kids on plane that crashed near Outer Banks
Kids on plane that crashed near Outer Banks(NBC)

At a press conference Monday afternoon, Carteret County Sheriff Asa Buck said one body had been recovered, and the search is continuing for the other seven. Buck added, “We have no indication that anyone survived the crash.”

WITN reached out to Carteret County Public Schools, the school system of the four boys who are feared lost for more information, and were given the following statement:

We are incredibly saddened as we join with the Down East and Eastern North Carolina community as we await official word on the airplane crash off the coast of Drum Inlet, North Carolina. Crisis teams are on school campuses to support students, staff and families.”

WITN learned Monday that an Eastern Carolina businessman and his girlfriend were also among those who are feared lost after the crash.

SHERIFF: ‘No indication anyone survived’ Carteret County plane crash

Tom Harrison, a partner at Mattamuskeet Ventures, tells WITN that his friend and business partner Hunter Parks and Parks’ girlfriend, Stephanie Fulcher, were returning from a duck hunting trip in Hyde County when the plane they were on crashed Sunday.

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“He was one of the most generous people I know and he had a duck hunting property and he had invited a large number of youth and veterans. There’s a special duck season, a 1-day duck season for youth and veterans and he had invited them all to his property to duck hunt. And they had hunted there Saturday and were still in Hyde County at lunch time yesterday and flew home yesterday when the accident happened,” Harrison told WITN.

Stephanie Fulcher & Hunter Parks
Stephanie Fulcher & Hunter Parks(Stephanie Fulcher/Facebook)

The Coast Guard told WITN Monday afternoon that next-of-kin had been notified about the crash but that identities of all involved will not be released until 24-hours later.

Fulcher is remembered by Chris Yeomans, a former Carteret County educator.

“She was always vibrant in the community, she loved her children, she loved her family, she was always supportive at school,” Yeomans said. “When I was principal, she was always an active member, just truly a blessing in this community.”

Harrison remembers Parks as someone who “wanted everybody to come out a winner.”

The Coast Guard and several other agencies are searching three separate debris fields. It said that rescue boats from various parts of the state and country are assisting in the search.

The Coast Guard said his ship, the Coast Guard Cutter Richard Snyder “will remain on scene overnight and continue responding to the downed aircraft site offshore Drum Inlet.”

West Carteret High School posted on its Facebook page condolences to those impacted by the plane crash, and in honor of them, is allowing students to make cards for East Carteret students.

The school is also asking students to wear blue and yellow for “ECHS Day” on Wednesday in support of “our friends across the bridge” and camo on Thursday in support of the boys.

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