SWAINSBORO, GA (WTOC) - Four people are dead after a small plane crashed at the Swainsboro Airport on Saturday afternoon. At least one person is in the hospital in critical condition.
All five people that were aboard the 1988 single-engine Cessna when it crashed have been identified. William Middlebrooks is currently receiving treatment at the Augusta University Medical Center. He remains in serious condition.
The four that perished have been identified as 31-year-old Staff Sergeant Aliaksandr "Alex" Bahrytsevich, of Raeford, NC; 42-year-old Justin Duff, of Statesboro, GA; 23-year-old Andrew Swenson, of Daytona Beach, FL; and 42-year-old Chris Eldridge, of Rincon, GA.
In a statement posted to Facebook, the U.S. Army Golden Knights said that the Staff Sergeant Bahrytsevich was "extremely passionate about the sport of skydiving and always sought opportunities to coach and mentor other members of the team."
The Jumping Place Skydiving Center posted about the crash on their Facebook on Saturday.
The wreckage sat just hundreds of yards from the Swainsboro airport runway. Macie Gay was nearby and took a picture of it taking off and eager to watch skydivers practice. Then she heard the engine sputter and stall.
"I just kept watching and it kind of floated for a minute," said Gay. "Next thing I knew it was turning left and nosediving to the ground. Then I heard a huge crash."
Emanuel County Sheriff Tyson Stephens was the first to report that five people were aboard the 1988 single-engine Cessna at the time it crashed.
Sheriff Stephens called it one of the worst tragedies he'd seen in this community in his nearly four decades as sheriff.