OCONEE COUNTY, S.C. — While the National Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation into the fatal plane crash that tragically killed Charlie Smith; his son, Scott Smith; former Tippecanoe Valley Football Coach Scott Bibler; and local businessman and Sprint Car driver Tony Elliott, a preliminary report as to what caused the accident may not be released for another five to 10 days.
The Oconee County Coroner’s office has released the cause of death of all four individuals.
Karl E. Addis, Oconee County Coroner, has ruled all four deaths as accidental. Autopsies were performed Sunday morning on Charles Smith, pilot; and his son, Scott Smith. The results determined Charlie Smith died from multiple injuries due to blunt force trauma and his son, died from trauma to the spinal column.
Results of autopsies Monday morning on Elliott and Bibler show similar results. Elliott died from chest trauma and trauma to the spinal column. Bibler, died from blunt force trauma to the chest.
In a press release Saturday, Addis states at 3:10 p.m. Friday, an airplane was observed going down in a wooded area of Oconee County. The first call to Oconee County 911 Communications was received at 3:13 p.m. with the report of an airplane spiraling downward.
“The incident occurred in the Tabor Community of Oconee County, near the South Carolina/Georgia state line, Westminster,” reported Addis.
He stated emergency services workers later located the wreckage, reporting all four had died at the scene.
News reports from the South Carolina area said the bulk of the wreckage was located in the Tabor community. Some wreckage was also located on the Georgia side of the lake and more may have sunk into Lake Hartwell.
The coroner’s report states Charles Smith was the pilot and his son was the front seat passenger in the co-pilot seat. Eliott was in the left rear – forward facing seat. The position of Bibler is unknown.
The NTSB reportedly resumed collecting plane wreckage today, Monday, Oct. 5.
InkFreeNews was contacted by Philip Nelson who resides two miles away from the crash site. “I did not see the crash, but my father did … he said, ‘…it was pointed down, and was spiraling.’ He said that you could see the light on its tail, and it was making an odd sound as it went down. A neighbor heard the crash and said that it was really loud. I’m not sure exactly how far she was from the crash though.”
“It’s been very rainy all week, we are under a flash food watch until Monday morning. It was cloudy at the time of the crash and the governor declared a state of emergency Thursday night.”
The light tracking website FlightAware said the 1984 single-engine Piper Saratoga, left Warsaw Municipal Airport at 11:59 a.m. and scheduled to arrive at Oconee Regional at 3:17 p.m. Oconee Regional is reported as less than a mile from Lake Hartwell and less than a five-minute drive to Clemson University’s football stadium.
A one-mile debris trail extended from the lake 60 yards into nearby woods. The site was in a remote area of the lake and much of the recovery work was done by boats. There are no eyewitness reports of seeing the crash, just seeing the plane as it headed down.