December 5, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga.---A small plane crashed at the Congregation Children of Israel on Walton Way Wednesday night, killing the pilot.
The pilot has been identified by the Phoenix Air Group, Inc as 19 year-old Ron Baker from Cartersville, Ga.
Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation and Safety Board were on the scene today, trying to figure out what caused the small plane to crash into concrete steps near the rabbi's study at the Congregation Children of Israel Walton Way Temple at 3005 Walton Way.
A door near where the plane ended up will have to be boarded up for awhile, but News 12 was allowed inside, and the interior of the building shows no real visible damage. A large Hanukkah dinner planned for Friday night should be held without problems.
David Alalof, chair of security at the temple, says the pilot is regarded as a hero, since he landed in a way that kept the plane from crashing directly into the building.
The crash happened around 7 o'clock Wednesday night. Richmond County coroner Grover Tuten says the plane initially hit a parking lot at Langford Middle School, went across Martin Lane, and crashed at the foot of the temple. It then burst into flames.
Tuten says the concrete steps saved the temple from being destroyed.
Ten people were inside the synagogue preparing meals for Hanukkah. Everyone got out safely.
Langford Middle School is open for class today, but the preschool at the temple is closed while the investigation continues. Walton Way is open this morning, but traffic is backed up in the area because drivers are continually slowing down to look at the wreckage.
The Piper PA28 departed from Charleston and was heading for Cartersville, Georgia -- the home of the pilot.
The investigation could take up to 9 months to complete; however, a prelimary report will be released in about a week. Investigators are using voicetapes and radar data to analyze the cause of the accident.