Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. Gwinnett County Fire officials investigate a Queen Air dual prop aircraft that crashed in Lawrenceville on Monday. Investigators say one is dead after a small plane crashed.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Mahlon Burson just happened to be in his yard about 5 p.m. Monday afternoon when he saw the low-flying plane. When it clipped a tree across the street from his North Clayton Street home, he knew it was in trouble.
Burson called 911 and went to the crash site, just a few hundred yards from where he stood, to try to help those on board.
"We tried to get them out but we couldn't get that close," Burson said. "We got up there and the gas tanks started exploding."
The pilot, whose name has not been released, died in the crash.
But three male passengers did make it out alive. They suffered non-life threatening burns and were taken to Gwinnett Medical Center, said Gwinnett County fire spokesman Capt. Thomas Rutledge, who did not know their exact conditions.
Rutledge said by the time firefighters arrived, the plane was already engulfed in flames just behind a home on Simmons Circle near Spring Circle. Exactly what caused the plane to go down is still under investigation, Rutledge said. He believes the twin-engine aircraft likely had just taken off from the Gwinnett County Airport about two miles away but didn't know its destination.
After clipping trees in the front and back of the home, the plane just missed a small lake and landed in a wooded area.
"We are fortunate it didn't hit a house and that no other injuries have been reported," Rutledge said.
The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were called in to investigate, Rutledge said.
Lawrenceville resident Leeland Davis, who said he grew up around airplanes and spent years in the Civil Air Patrol, was driving home from work when he saw the plane take off from Briscoe Field.
"The plane's right engine was windmilling and as it crossed the intersection the left engine failed," Davis said.
Davis said he believes the pilot tried to make it back to the runway but was unable to do so.
"I called my wife and said, 'Yep, he's going down.'"