‘The engine was struggling, then it nosedived’: 911 calls shed light on deadly plane crash in Hope Mills

Cumberland County News

HOPE MILLS, N.C. (WNCN) – The 911 calls released Friday afternoon shed light on what happened leading up to and after a plane crashed into a Hope Mills home. Two people died, including the pilot, died, and a third person was injured.

A neighbor told CBS 17 that a couple and their three dogs lived in the home. There’s no word on the dogs.

Robert Gertz with the National Transportation Safety Board said the pilot, who neighbors say was Bill Merritt, was doing takeoffs and landings. He said the pilot reported a control problem shortly before the wreck.

“It was having trouble,” one 911 caller said. “We could hear it. The engine was struggling, then it nosedived. Boom.”


A 911 call made by the air traffic control tower in Fayetteville reaffirms what the NTSB discovered.

“I think he was just going up to do three touch-and-go’s, then land,” the caller said.

READ MORE: 2 dead, 1 seriously injured after plane crashes into Cumberland County home

The site of the crash is approximately three miles south-southwest of the airport and just 1,500 feet from Interstate-95.

Another caller said he didn’t notice the plane flying around until it began to go down.

“I heard it and it made a pretty loud crash,” he said. “I’ve seen planes crash. … I don’t think there was an explosion. What was really funny is normally you can hear a plane flying around. This one here, it just came out of nowhere. It was loud and then there was a crack.”

Cotton Fire Department’s fire chief said the plane came through the bedroom of the home when it made impact.

“I heard the motor stalling,” another 911 caller said. “Then I heard it hit the ground. I thought it was a motorcycle, but it won’t. It was an airplane… Me and my son are standing out here and we heard the thing hit the ground.”

The North Carolina State Highway Patrol is the lead agency in the investigation. Gertz said the NTSB’s preliminary report on the wreck will be available after about 10 business days. The full report takes about a year.

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