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Five people died in a small plane crash near Louisiana airport, officials say

At least five people are dead and four others are injured after a small plane crashed into a field in Louisiana. CNN's Martin Savidge speaks with aviation analyst Peter Goelz about what officials may look for as they investigate.

Posted: Dec 28, 2019 4:10 PM
Updated: Dec 28, 2019 4:10 PM

Five people died Saturday when a small plane crashed near Lafayette Regional Airport in Louisiana, Lafayette Fire Chief Robert Benoit said.

A sixth person on board survived the crash, which occurred around 9:22 a.m. CT, Benoit said in a news conference.

Fire officials identified the dead as:

• Ian E. Biggs, 51, pilot

• Robert Vaughn Crisp II, 59

• Carley Ann McCord, 30

• Gretchen D. Vincent, 51

• Michael Walker Vincent, 15

McCord was a sports reporter with WDSU television in New Orleans. She was the daughter-in-law of Louisiana State University Offensive Coordinator Steve Ensminger, according to WDSU. LSU is playing in Atlanta on Saturday in one of the NCAA's two national championship semifinals.

McCord was a former employee of 104.5 ESPN Baton Rouge. During a pregame show, 104.5 ESPN radio host Matt Moscona said on-air that McCord was on her way to Atlanta to watch the LSU game.

ESPN, which was televising the game, spoke to LSU head coach Ed Orgeron.

"Steve and his wife and his family are very distraught," Orgeron said, adding "there's no question" Ensminger would still coach in the game.

Joel Vilmenay, the WDSU's president and general manager, said his staff was devastated and called McCord an amazing talent.

"Carley's passion for sports journalism and her deep knowledge of Louisiana sports, from high school to the professional ranks, made her an exceptional journalist," he said. "As we reflect on her impressive body of work, we offer our deepest condolences to her family."

The injured passenger was identified as Stephen Wade Berzas, 37. He is in critical condition, Lafayette Fire Department spokesman Alton Trahan said in a news release.

Three people were injured on the ground, including a person who was in or near a car and two employees of a nearby post office, Benoit said. The postal workers were treated for smoke inhalation and are doing fine, he said.

The eight-passenger aircraft was taking off from the airport when it crashed, Benoit said. The crash site is about 4 miles from the airport. The NTSB identified the aircraft as a Piper PA-31T.

Officials arrived at the crash site at 9:30 a.m., Benoit said. Several local and state agencies were on the scene cooperating, and the FAA has done a preliminary investigation, he said. Authorities expect the NTSB to arrive later Saturday evening, Benoit said.

Authorities are not yet releasing any information about the victims or the plane's owner.

Weather conditions at Lafayette Regional Airport were listed as foggy throughout Saturday morning, with a visibility of 0.75 miles, according to the National Weather Service. At 7 a.m. local time, visibility was listed at 0.25 miles, which the weather service designates as "dense fog."

Lafayette is about 130 miles west of New Orleans.

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