ROUGEMONT, N.C. (WNCN) — The National Transportation Safety Board released their preliminary report Friday on the deadly plane crash in Orange County Sunday, May 21.

At about 11:15 p.m. that day, the Federal Aviation Administration said a single-engine Beechcraft 35 crashed near Rougemont.

They said one person was on board. The NTSB said around 3:08 p.m. that one person died in the crash.

Orange County officials confirmed the man as John M. Bofinger Jr., 68, of Hewitt, New Jersey.

What happened before the crash?

According to the preliminary report released Friday, Bofinger Jr. was operating the plane on a personal flight.

It said he took off from Oconee County Regional Airport (CEU) in Clemson, South Carolina at about 9:48 a.m. and was heading to the Hudson Valley Regional Airport (POU) in Wappingers Falls, New York.

The report said he was bringing the plane to New York for its annual inspection.

According to the NTSB, the plane climbed to about 5,500 feet above sea level heading northeast, descended to about 2,600 feet for part of the flight and then returned to 5,500 feet.

At about 11:10 a.m., the NTSB said the plane began to slow and descend.

About one minute later, their report said the plane made a 90-degree left turn followed by a 90-degree right turn, while continuing to slow and descend traveling northeast.

The last data point at 11:15 a.m. showed the airplane at 1,100 feet about sea level about 375 feet west of the accident site with a ground speed of 56 knots, according to the report.

It said this area was near power lines, however, no damage was reported to them or their towers.

Witness accounts

According to the NTSB’s report, a witness less than one mile away from the accident site said the airplane was “loud and low.”

They said it was flying toward the Raleigh Regional Airport in Person County (TDF), Roxboro, which was less than five miles to the northeast.

Just before the witness saw the plane come into sight, the NTSB said the witness reported that the engine “died back down then came back up” before it started to “backfire badly,” then “became quiet” before flying out of sight.

According to the report, another witness reported hearing a “knocking sound” to the engine’s “spitting and sputtering.”

Both witnesses reported hearing the crash shortly after the airplane flew overhead, the report said.

Aftermath of the crash

NTSB said their investigation determined that the plane crashed into a narrow batch of trees between two fields, severing treetops.

They said there was evidence of a post-crash fire at the accident site, which was at an elevation of 612 miles above sea level.

All major components of the airplane were found at the accident site, however, the fuselage and cabin were destroyed by the post-crash fire, according to the report.

It said the left main landing gear was retracted, and the left fuel tank was intact and contained a liquid consistent in smell and color with 100LL aviation fuel. 

The report said the cockpit was destroyed, and the instrument panel and engine controls were thermally damaged.

The NTSB said they retained the wreckage for further examination.