Sunday, October 2, 2016

Piper PA-32R-301 Saratoga SP, N782TM, Smith Family Aviation LLC: Fatal accident occurred October 02, 2015 in Westminster, South Carolina

WARSAW — The Warsaw community is remembering a tragic anniversary this weekend. It was a year ago on Oct. 2 when a small private plane that took off from the Warsaw airport crashed in South Carolina.

Four prominent members of the community were on board and were killed. The crash claimed the lives of Warsaw councilman Charlie Smith; his son Scott Smith, a Warsaw attorney; Tony Elliott, a race-car driver who lived in Warsaw; and Scott Bibler, a former Tippecanoe Valley High School educator who had just taken on a new role as a counselor.

The men were headed to the Notre Dame football game at Clemson.

Friday when the Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay went through Warsaw, the Tippecanoe Valley athletic director participated in the ceremony in memory of Scott Bibler.

Today at the Warsaw Community Church, where some of the funerals were held, the pastor spoke to the congregation about this solemn anniversary.

Mark Terrell was a friend and colleague of Bibler and a neighbor of Elliott. This has been a tough day for him.

"It's amazing how fast the year has gone by, and they are still missed," Terrell said, "We miss them. I miss their smiles. I miss their laughter. Both of them were incredibly filled with life. When you have people like that who are bigger than life, it is hard for people to fill that void."


From left to right: Tony Elliot, Charlie Smith, Scott Smith. 

Scott Bibler

Charles "Charlie" Smith

Scott Smith

Scott Smith, his father Charlie Smith and friend Tony Elliott at a Notre Dame football game.

Scott Bibler and family pose for a photo, posted on Bibler's Facebook page. Bibler was one of four men killed on October 2, 2015 when a plane from Warsaw crashed in South Carolina. 

Tony Elliott

Scott Bibler

Kosciusko County's Charles Smith, 71, and son Scott Smith, 44, pose for a picture at a Green Bay Packers game.

Scott A. Smith, left and his father, Charles D. Smith.

 Scott  Bibler

Tony Elliott

Smith Family Aviation LLC:  http://registry.faa.govN782TM
FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA West Columbia FSDO-13

NTSB Identification: ERA16FA001 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, October 02, 2015 in Westminster, SC
Aircraft: PIPER PA 32R-301, registration: N782TM
Injuries: 4 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On October 2, 2015, about 1512 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-32R-301, N782TM, collided with terrain following an in-flight breakup near Westminster, South Carolina. The private pilot and three passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces. The airplane was registered to Smith Family Aviation LLC and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Day, instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed. The flight originated from Warsaw Municipal Airport (ASW), Warsaw, Indiana and was destined for Oconee County Regional Airport (CEU), Clemson, South Carolina.

According to preliminary information provided by the Federal Aviation Administration, the airplane was at 6,000 feet above mean sea level (msl), approaching ZEYLM intersection to hold for the RNAV runway 7 approach at CEU. The pilot was subsequently cleared for the approach and reported that the airplane was established outbound on the procedure turn. The controller subsequently queried the pilot when he did not report inbound on the approach; no response was received. Radar contact was lost over Lake Hartwell, on the Georgia-South Carolina border, about 2,200 feet msl.

Local residents reported hearing and seeing the airplane prior to the accident. One witness heard a loud "boom," followed by white pieces of debris falling into the lake. Another witness saw the airplane descending vertically, in a spiral motion, until it disappeared behind a tree line. Another witness reported that the engine was running until ground impact. Several witnesses reported the event to 911, and the wreckage was located by first responders shortly thereafter.

The pilot, age 71, held a private pilot certificate with airplane single engine land and instrument airplane ratings. He reported 1,448 hours total flight time on his most recent application for an FAA third-class medical certificate, dated October 17, 2013.

The main wreckage was found inverted in a wooded area, about 50 yards north of the shoreline of Lake Hartwell, near Westminster. Damage to trees was indicative of a near-vertical descent angle at impact. There was no fire. The main wreckage consisted of the main cabin, cockpit, engine, propeller, left wing, and the inboard half of the right wing. About 10 percent of the empennage was recovered near the south shoreline the lake, near Toccoa, Georgia. At the time of this writing, the outboard portion of the right wing and the remainder of the empennage have not been located.

The wreckage was retained for further examination.

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