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North Carolina couple, grandchild killed in plane crash in North Myrtle Beach

The pilot in a fatal plane crash had been instructed by the tower to climb from 700 to 6,000 feet, just before the plane crashed into a mobile home park in North Myrtle Beach, killing all three people on board and injuring four others on the ground, an investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board said today.

The pilot acknowledged the instruction and began to climb before the aircraft went off the radar, said Bob Gretz, a NTSB senior air safety investigator, at a news conference this afternoon. There was no emergency call from the plane, Gretz said.

It could take six to 12 months to complete the investigation into the crash that killed the pilot, his wife and their 4-year-old granddaughter from North Carolina.

Danny Carroll, 54, Raychel Carroll, 66, and their granddaughter, Mallory Fields, died in the crash, which occurred at 8:55 p.m. on 1306 Toucan Road inside the Creekside Mobile Home Park, said Horry County Coroner Robert Edge.

The Carrolls had flown to North Myrtle Beach to spend a day vacationing with their daughter, her husband and three children on the beach, neighbor Sharon Childress said.

It was Danny Carroll's first flight in the Piper PA-28 Cherokee he was flying at the time of the crash, the NTSB investigator said. Carroll received his pilots license in 1991 and was rated to fly single engine planes, such as the PA-28, at night with the assistance of instruments, according to FAA records. The plane was manufactured in 1979, records show.

Horry County Coroner Robert Edge said an autopsy on the pilot would be performed today at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center. He said the victims died from trauma from the impact of the crash.

Danny Carroll is a co-owner of Lady's Funeral Home in Kannapolis, N.C., they said. Carroll was member of a flight club that allowed him to borrow airplanes, Childress said. They had made the day trip several times before, she said.

The small plane crashed through trees, then into a mobile home park before bursting into flames, according to authorities and witnesses.

One man remains hospitalized at a burn center in Atlanta, friends said. Ronnie Bryant, 34, was standing just outside the home next to the one that was hit by the plane and suffered burns from the explosion.

Three others - Sandra Freeman, 54; Robert John Werkheiser, 38; and Keith Lewis 35 - were treated and released from area hospitals. Werkheiser suffered a concussion, some bruising and needed some stitches at the hospital. Freeman's hair caught fire after the explosion but was quickly extinguished.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford said Thursday that the pilot's flight plan listed three people on board.

The four-seat plane was headed to Concord, N.C. The Associated Press reported that FAA records show the plane was registered to Robert O'Neale III of Concord, N.C.

Carroll received his pilots license in 1991 and was rated to fly single engine planes, such as the Piper PA-28 Cherokee he was flying at the time of the crash, at night with the assistance of instruments, according to FAA records. The plane was manufactured in 1979, records show.

Investigators don't know if the plane was equipped with a voice or cockpit recorder. That will be part of their investigation as they sift through the wreckage, Gretz said.

George Patterson of Whitley's Funeral Home in Kannapolis described Danny Carroll as a good friend and colleague.

"I knew Mr. Carroll very well, and I’m upset because I grew up with him," Patterson said. "He was a good man, a wonderful father."

Joe Harris, who lives 100 yards from the crash site, said he saw a man leave the mobile home after the crash with ''severe burns'' to his arms and legs. He said a woman in the home appeared uninjured but in shock.

"I looked out and saw a ball of flames like 100 feet tall,'' Harris said. ''The crash shook my house. One guy told me he saw the plane and heard the motor sputtering."

Christopher Gore said the plane was circling in the area before the crash.

"It was circling around us," Gore said. "It came out of nowhere. That explosion shocked me. It had been circling for a while and we thought it left. And the next thing we knew it was coming down and it hit."

Gore said his cousin rents a neighboring trailer and he was sitting outside the home with Gore's father at the time of the crash. Gore's father suffered burns to his right arm and was hospitalized after being thrown about 10 feet when the plane hit the ground and exploded.

Karen McQueen, whose daughter owns the mobile home that was struck, said she believed a family had been renting the home for about a year. She said the plane crashed into the home where her granddaughter's bedroom would have been.

"It just breaks my heart,'' McQueen said. "I'm so sorry for the people who died."

Another neighbor, LaTonya Black, said the blast melted the blinds inside her cousin's trailer.

"I can't get over how it went," Black said. "I thought it was going to hit my cousin's house."

A dog staying in the mobile home was killed in the crash, officials said. Another dog remains missing, family said.

The Red Cross is assisting the family of three whose mobile home was struck by the plane and another family of an adult and child whose home was damaged by the explosion.

An official with the National Weather Service said this morning that there were thunderstorms west of the airport at the time of the crash and winds were clocked at 12 miles per hour. The ceiling was 1,200 feet.

Rick Buddelmeyer, North Myrtle Beach interim public safety director, said the plane hit the ground; some of its debris then scattered and went under the mobile home, causing it to catch fire. The home sat charred Wednesday night, and its residents were taken to Grand Strand Regional Medical Center.

Buddelmeyer said two people were inside the home when the plane crashed into it and neither suffered life-threatening injury.

One of the first police officers on the scene was also taken to the hospital and treated for smoke inhalation.

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