Update: Deadly plane crash in Lowndes Co. - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Update: Deadly plane crash in Lowndes Co.

LAKE PARK, GA (WALB) -

Tonight, aviation investigators and clean-up crews remain on the scene of that deadly plane crash in Lowndes County.

They're still not sure why the plane went down Monday night shortly after takeoff from Valdosta.

Jesup businessman and pilot Rick Poppell was in Valdosta to check on his Christmas tree lots. And we do know crews found a considerable amount of money at the crash site.

Mike and Cindy Hovanec say they were the last people to see 52-year-old Rick Poppell alive. Poppell flew into Valdosta Monday and stopped at the two Christmas tree lots he owned in Valdosta. The Hovanec's worked for Poppell for more than a decade and say his visit was unexpected.

"I turn around and there he was. And he goes, his favorite words were, 'what's goin' on?' and I'm going 'uh what's going on, what are you doing here?,'" said Mike Hovanec.

Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine says, Poppell was in town to collect the profits from his Valdosta businesses. Prine says they recovered a considerable amount of money in envelopes from the crash site.

"I thank God for this man, I thank God for him trusting us, you know there's a lot of money that goes through that cash register and this man trusted us over these years," said Hovanec.

As FAA and NTSB officials continued their investigation today, clean-up crews arrived to start removing the wreckage.

Investigators have allowed us to come a little bit closer to the scene of the crash. But we're told even if you're standing right next to the yellow tape, you can't even see the wreckage. He crashed into thick woods.

An autopsy report came back this morning and Poppell died from multiple blunt force injuries. He death was ruled accidental.

"Here's a man that was prosperous, here's a man that had everything, here's a man that was in good health and had a great wife and all of a sudden he's here today and bam, he's gone. It's like your life is a vapor," said Hovanec.

The Hovanec's say they couldn't have been luckier to have such a great boss.

"We loved him, we loved him, he was a great man, he will be greatly missed," said the Hovanec's.

NTSB officials say a preliminary report could be completed by the end of next week.

According to the FAA's pilot registration website, Poppell earned his pilot's license a little more than a year ago.

His body was taken to his hometown of Jesup this afternoon.

Copyright 2012 WALB.  All rights reserved.

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