“The fire was just too hot to get to them,” said an obviously shaken Matt Marinovich. He was first on the scene of the fiery plane crash south of the Columbia Airport Sunday that claimed the lives of at least two people.
Marinovich is used to hearing the sound of airplanes taking off. He lives on Horseshoe Bend Road right at the end of the Columbia Airport runway.
The single engine Piper had just lifted off about but never gained attitude. It crashed 100 yards from Marinovich’s house.
Marinovich said he heard the plane’s engine sputter then pop, restart, pop, then shut off completely just before he and his wife heard the crash and felt the impact shake the ground.
The private plane crashed on a rolling hillside around 11 a.m. “I saw the tail sticking up on the hill and smoke,” said Marinovich. “When I went up there, it was involved in flame.” He said the fire was so hot he wasn’t able to help the two people in side. “There was nothing I could do.”
Columbia Airport technician Fred Niebla arrived shortly thereafter with two large fire extinguishers. He hopped a fence and ran to the burning wreckage. He, also, was unable to help safe the people onboard.
“We put out the brush fire first,” Niebla said. “The fire was so hot. You could see the people…it was too far gone to even help them,” he said. Fire department arrived to extinguish the fire in the aircraft.
Federal Aviation Administration officials were investigating the cause of the crash.
There is no word yet on names of the people on board or where the plane was from.