Eight people died in a plane crash on Sunday in North Carolina while on a hunting trip. So far, rescuers recovered just one body in the area, but there are no indications that any of the small plane’s passengers survived the crash.
The U.S. Coast Guard said the Pilatus PC-12 plane was behaving “erratically” on radar before going down four miles east of Drum Inlet. Recovery efforts are still underway, according to the Carteret County Sheriff’s office.
Aboard the plane was entrepreneur Hunter Parks, who had just hosted a wildfowl hunting expedition on his Lake Mattamuskeet-area property for veterans and teens. Parks’ girlfriend Stephanie Fulcher, her son Kole McInnis, and three of his teenaged friends were also aboard the aircraft.
Shortly before take-off, Fulcher shared pictures of the teens on the aircraft having lunch. She captioned the photos: “Blessed to have a successful Youth/Veteran duck hunt again this year!”
The young teens were students at East Carteret High School. They’ve been identified by friends and family as Kole McInnis, Jake Taylor, Dailey Shepherd, and Noah Styron. Carteret County Public Schools spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson said the district would release more information once advised by the Coast Guard.
“We are incredibly saddened [by the news]. 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,” said a statement from the district. “Crisis teams are on school campuses to support students, staff and families.”
The pilot and remaining passenger have not yet been identified or made public.
How is the North Carolina Coast Guard searching for remains of the plane crash?
Coast Guard boats and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter military aircrew searched the area Sunday to find the single-engine aircraft. On Monday the search team added a Coast Guard C-130 fixed-wing aircraft to assist efforts, as well.
‘It can be very difficult [to locate sunken aircrafts],” Coast Guard spokesman Edward Wargo said. “But we’re well equipped to provide adequate search efforts, especially since we have so many partner agencies working with us. This is something the Coast Guard trains for, and we’ve experienced this before.”
Tom Harrison, a friend of the late Hunter Parks, called him an accomplished fisherman and dedicated businessman. “Whatever he did, he poured himself into it,” Harrison said. “He was extremely kind and generous and wanted everybody to be happy. He was a problem solver, an intermediary, and just a great partner, a great friend, and a great guy.”
According to Parks’ mission statement, the annual hunting expedition was a way to give back and help young people reconnect with nature. “It’s a way of giving back to veterans and a way of preserving our heritage with young men and being positive role models, and getting them outside and disconnecting them from electronics,” he wrote.
“Giving them an experience out in nature.”