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Pilot in fatal crash was alive after impact at Andrews Airport

The pilot of a small airplane that crashed in Georgetown County Wednesday afternoon was alive after impact, Paulette Radcliffe, deputy coroner in Georgetown County said this morning.

Radcliffe identified the pilot, who died at the scene, as Richard Gross, 66, of 10066 North Carolina Road, McClellanville.

Radcliffe said the initial call about the crash was logged at 11:10 a.m. Gross was pronounced dead at 12:15 p.m.

The airplane crashed into the woods near the Andrews Airport, according to Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford.

Lt. Neil Johnson with the Georgetown County Sheriff's Office said the Stinson model 108 fixed-wing, single engine plane Gross was piloting crashed around noon about 150 yards from the Andrews Airport runway.

Pete Kinder, chairman of the Georgetown County Airport Commission, said Wednesday that the airport was temporarily closed until further notice.

A steady stream of emergency vehicles and airport officials drove into the gates at the Andrews Airport throughout Wednesday afternoon as the investigation into the crash continued.

Johnson said officials from the National Transportation Safety Board, who were also on site Wednesday, will handle the crash investigation.

Georgetown County deputies took shifts guarding the airport gate Wednesday, checking identifications as officials arrived to trek over the winding airport access road, past the end of the barbed wire security fence to the site of the crash about 150 yards beyond the runway.

The airport sits off Gapway Road on a secluded parcel of land with mostly tall grass and swampy terrain on three sides.

The small plane crashed deep into the wooded area behind the airport that was hard for emergency vehicles to access.

The lights from several fire trucks remained visible through a space between two aging hangar buildings that seemed empty of airplanes or inhabitants.

Curious neighbors not used to seeing crowds of cars at the unmanned airport stopped at the scene to ask what had happened.

Many said they were used to seeing occasional planes or even flying themselves in and out of the small community runway.

None of the neighbors would give their names, saying only that they'd pray for the pilot's family and they were saddened by the news.

Gross has had his plane at one of the hangars at the Andrews airport for less than six months, Kinder said.

Prior to that time, Gross had his plane on the tarmac at the Georgetown County Airport.

Kinder said he never saw Gross fly the plane in that nearly six-month period.

Kathleen Bergen of the FAA said that agency will investigate whether the pilot was landing or taking off or neither when the crash occurred.

She said there was no air traffic control communication with the pilot.

Meteorologist Josh Weiss with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C., said there was no unusual weather in the Andrews area Wednesday.

"The weather's been fairly benign down there," Weiss said.

He said there was some low cloud cover, around 1,000 to 1,500 feet, but no rain and winds were below 10 knots. The plane Wednesday was the second to crash in the Grand Strand within two months.

On the night of July 14, a private plane crashed into a mobile home park in North Myrtle Beach, killing all three people on board and injuring four others on the ground.

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