BRYAN, Texas – A single-engine plane crashed amid a rainstorm in central Texas, killing the pilot, his wife and two children from Georgia, as well as his brother who lived in Texas, officials said Tuesday.
The Piper Saratoga aircraft crashed just before 10 p.m. Monday in a farming and ranching community in northeast Brazos County, said Tom Vinger, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety.
The flight originated in Atlanta, stopped in Jackson, Miss., and was headed for Waco, Texas, when it crashed in a field north of Bryan and College Station. A resident called 911 to report the crash.
Vinger identified the victims as 33-year-old Michael D. Butler; his 34-year-old wife Kelly; their 14-year-old daughter Brooke; and son Braden, age 2. The family was from Stockbridge, Georgia, south of Atlanta.
Also killed was the pilot's brother, David S. Butler, 37, of Mount Calm, Texas, a community outside Waco.
The plane had yet to begin its descent, and storms with rain and lightning were moving through the area when the crash occurred. Vinger said it was not clear if the weather played any role, and that authorities hadn't determined the cause of the crash.
Heavy snow fell Monday in parts of northwest Texas, though the crash occurred hundreds of miles south and east of the areas of the state that suffered the most severe weather.
Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were at the crash scene Tuesday and flew over the area in a helicopter, following a similar flight plan to the aircraft that crashed.
"From there, you can see a whole lot more than you can see from down here," said Department of Public Safety Cpl. Jimmy Morgan, who was also at the scene. "Maybe you can see something we don't."
A final determination on what caused the crash isn't expected for up to a year.
Brazos County Police Sgt. Charles Booker arrived on the scene within an hour of the crash and said Brooke Butler, 14, was ejected from the plane and thrown 50 feet.
One of the plane's wings broke away from the rest of the aircraft and came to rest more than 300 yards from the main crash area, he said. The plane smashed into a series of treetops as it sped toward the ground and left a radius of debris spreading outward more than 2 miles.
The owner of the land where the plane crashed told Booker a light rain had begun to fall in the area just prior to the crash, and it kept raining as Booker began investigating the scene.
Eventually it intensified into "a pretty good little downpour," Booker said.