Six people from Mississippi died when their small airplane flying from central Florida back to Oxford, Mississippi crashed on Sunday (14 August). Authorities said the aircraft developed engine problems and crashed moments after sending a distress signal near Tuscaloosa Regional Airport.
Northrop Mayor Bobby Hendron, appearing at a joint news conference with Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, told reporters firefighters reached the crash within three minutes, but were unable to save the six people on board. "They did everything they could," he said, according to CBS News.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a statement saying the Piper PA-31, which was manufactured in 1984, had departed Kissimmee Gateway Airport and crashed in the trees near the Tuscaloosa airport. Tuscaloosa Police Lieutenant Teena Richardson told reporters it was not immediately clear if the aircraft planned to stop in Tuscaloosa prior to the engine trouble.
The six victims were identified by Mississippi State Representative Jay Hughes as Lea and Jason Farese, Angie and Austin Poole and Kim and Michael Perry. According to Alabama.com, the three married couples had just attended a dental conference and left a total of 11 children behind.
"It's tragic to lose these wonderful Mississippians. Deborah and I pray for the loved and lost, their families and friends," Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant said. "Life can be so uncertain, so we depend on the blessing of eternal life and reuniting. May God assuage the families' sorrow and hold them all in the palm of his hand."
The Oxford Eagle reported the Farese's leave behind three children aged five, seven and 10. Their youngest had started kindergarten this week. They were both dentists and had a dental practice together.
Michael Perry, a periodontist and his wife Kimberly, a nurse, leave behind three children. Austin Poole and his wife had five children.
The bodies of the six victims were removed from the crash site and taken to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences in Montgomery for autopsies. The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash.