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Investigator: Plane broke apart before crashing on Army post
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SAVANNAH, Ga. — A small plane broke apart in the air and scattered wreckage over 1.5 miles when it crashed on Fort Stewart over the weekend, killing the pilot and his three passengers flying from Florida to South Carolina to buy a recreational vehicle.
    The cause of the crash remains unknown. The National Transportation Safety Board plans to issue a preliminary report this week, NTSB investigator Eric Alleyne said Monday.
    Investigators Monday were checking records on the airplane for any clues of mechanical problems. They were also collecting weather radar data for the cold, rainy Friday night when the plane crashed en route to Anderson, S.C., from Titusville, Fla.
    ‘‘It was scattered out over a mile-and-a-half,’’ Alleyne said of the wreckage. ‘‘It was an in-flight breakup.’’
    Richard P. Love III, 32, of Melbourne, Fla., was piloting the single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza owned by his father’s company, Blue Heron Aviation Sales LLC.
    ‘‘The purpose of the trip was to purchase an RV, which I think two of the passengers were going to drive back to Florida,’’ said James Fallace, an attorney for Blue Heron Aviation Sales.
    Fallace said he didn’t know how much experience Love had as a pilot, ‘‘but I understand that he’s been flying for quite some period of time. It was by no means his first flight.’’
    Liberty County Coroner Reginald L. Pierce identified one of the passengers as Trevor Quinn, 30, of Melbourne, Fla.
    Pierce did not immediately return phone calls Monday seeking names of the other two passengers, which were withheld over the weekend pending notification of family members.
    Air traffic controllers in northern Florida lost radar and radio contact with the plane Friday over southeast Georgia soon after the pilot asked permission to descend from 13,000 feet to 11,000 feet. No distress call was made, Alleyne said.
    Emergency responders at Fort Stewart, a sprawling Army post that covers more than 430 square miles southwest of Savannah, were called to look for the plane at about 6:30 p.m. It took them more than five hours to find the wreckage amid dense woods in a training area 6 miles from Fort Stewart’s headquarters and garrison.
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