A scare in the sky turned into tragedy on the ground, one man has died following a plane crashed in Albemarle County Sunday afternoon. It happened around 1:30 p.m. along the 2600 block of Proffit Road just a few miles from the Charlottesville Albemarle Regional Airport.
The victim has been identified as 51-year-old Dr. Christopher Desch from Richmond. Desch was a published and well known cancer specialist, serving as the medical director fo rthe National Comprehensive Cancer Care Network, an organization that strives to improve cancer patient care. Desch was on the only person on board the plane. The private plane, a 1976 Piper Lance belonging to the Wingnuts Flying Club, was bound for Charlottesville, coming from Chesterfield County.
Virginia State Police say the single engine airplane was trying to land at the Charlottesville Albemarle Regional Airport when the pilot radioed to the control tower saying he was having engine problems. The plane fell just short of the runway and crashed just off Proffit Road. Officials say they had a hard time getting to the accident.
Albemarle Spokesperson Lee Catlin stated, "It was a very remote area not near any buildings not near any roads or anything. It was very challenging for units to actually locate the crash and get folks to the scene. The crash took place in a wooded area that was adjacent to an open field on the farm property."
When crews did arrive it took them roughly 30 minutes to put out the flames when they then found the body on board. Catlin says the plane was destroyed in the crash.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will be following up with an investigation into what happened.
Wingnuts Flying Club President Jake Labello confirms that the plane does belong to his club but would not identify the pilot pending investigation. According to the Chesterfield Airport Christopher Desch owned and operated four planes out of chesterfield's airport. The Wingnuts Flying Club is a close knit group of about 60 pilots who all share a love a recreational flying. They have been in existence since 1980 and until now have not had a tragedy of this magnitude.
UVA Medical Center's Pegasus helicopter was in the area and observed the crash taking place. NBC29's David Douglas talked to the Pegasus flight crew, click on the video link to hear their account of the tragedy.