At least five people died and six more suffered injuries when a small plane crashed in Lafayette, Louisiana, on Saturday, December 28, 2019. Passengers were on their way to a Louisiana State University football semifinal game and had just taken off from Lafayette Regional Airport when the eight-passenger Piper Cheyenne they were in crashed into a parking lot and caught fire.
Plane’s Passengers en Route to Football Semifinal Game
Passengers boarded the plane anticipating a semifinal football game in Atlanta between LSU and Oklahoma. The plane crashed into a post office parking lot just before 9:30 am local time, only two miles away from its departure point. The Piper Cheyenne hit a car in the parking lot, seriously injuring a person inside it. The impact caused by the crash blew out the post office’s windows.
Officials identified the deceased victims on the plane as:
- Carley McCord, 30
- Michael Walker Vincent, 15
- Gretchen Vincent, 51
- Robert Vaughan Crisp II, 59
- Ian E. Biggs, 51 (the pilot)
Stephen Wade Berzas, 37, was also on the plane and suffered serious injuries, sustaining burns to more than 75 percent of his body, as well as a shoulder dislocation and head lacerations. At least five people on the ground were also injured.
One of the injured was identified as Danielle Truxillo Britt, who was in a car in the post office parking lot. The vehicle flipped over and caught fire in the crash. Other victims on the ground were in the post office and received treatment for smoke inhalation.
Witnesses Describe Devastating Scene
Dennis Devaney lives near the crash scene and said the plane appeared to be rising and falling.
“The plane was going up and down like a roller coaster,” Devaney said. “It looked like [the pilot] was fighting for control.”
Rayvin Silas Chevalier also lives near the site and said the accident caused the power to go out and her apartment complex to shake.
“The lights completely shut off, and then we heard a loud boom like a crash, and I heard a girl screaming, ‘It’s a plane’, as she was running away from it,” Chevalier said.
Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating the crash. Release of a final report could take between 12 and 18 months.
Officials Release Preliminary Data on Lafayette Tragedy
Investigators said the Piper Cheyenne climbed to around 900 feet before it careened down. After taking off from the airport, the plane turned left and then began to descend. It then hit trees and a power line before it crashed into the post office parking lot and caught fire. The plane hit the ground within a minute of takeoff.
The plane did not have a flight data recorder. Investigators noted that the aircraft did not make a distress call and the only communication between the pilot and air traffic control was a low altitude alert warning from air traffic control when the plane descended to 700 feet. The pilot did not respond to the alert.
The Piper Cheyenne plane was built in 1980. The twin-engine turboprop is reportedly owned by Cheyenne Partners, LLC.
Victims Remembered by Friends and Family Members
Michael Vincent died just a day before his 16th birthday. He was on his way with his mother, Gretchen Vincent, to watch the Peach Bowl in Atlanta. A friend remembered him as someone everyone loved, with a personality that lit up a room.
Carley McCord was a sports reporter covering football and basketball for a variety of stations. She also worked as an in-game host for the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans. A colleague remembered her as an exceptional journalist with a deep knowledge of Louisiana sports. Carley was married to Steven Ensminger, Jr., the son of LSU offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger.
Gretchen Vincent was an LSU graduate whose friends remembered her for her hard work, good heart, and determination. She was also a devoted LSU fan and a manager of C&G Enterprises of Acadiana.
Robert Crisp was the vice president of operations at Global Data Systems whose colleagues noted his leadership and his passion for helping customers.
Ian Biggs piloted the plane. He worked as both a pilot and an aircraft manager for Global Data Systems.