Pilot dies when aircraft goes down near Moore County runway

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VASS, N.C. (WNCN) – A 66-year-old Moore County man died when his aircraft crashed near a private airstrip near Vass, the Moore County Sheriff’s Office said.

Charles Grant Fitzgerald, Jr., of Cameron was flying a two-seater aircraft from Camden, South Carolina to Vass when the plane when down, the sheriff’s office said.

The plane was found around 12:45 a.m. upside-down a few hundred yards from Fitzgerald’s private airstrip.

“After an extensive search of the area, Sheriff’s Deputies, with the assistance of the State Bureau of Investigation, located the wreckage in a heavily wooded area off of Cranes Creek Road in the Cameron-Vass area of Moore County,” Sheriff Ronnie Fields said in a release.

Fitzgerald was retired from the military and served as a member of the U.S. Army Special Forces, the sheriff said.

Roland Gilliam owns Gilliam-McConnell Air Field, a place where Fitzgerald would often come. 

Roland knew something was wrong when the FAA called him last night asking if Charles has landed his plane there.

“You’re wondering why they’re calling at 10:15 at night,” Gilliam said.

A few hours later, Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields says they found the plane upside down in a densely wooded area, with Charles inside. 

The plane was found less than a couple hundred yards from Fitzgerald’s private runway. 

“It appears he was coming in for landing,” Sheriff Fields said. 

The Army veteran is remembered as a happy go lucky, well-liked member of this community.

“He was very well thought of throughout the community,” Fields said. “He loved to play music, bluegrass, he just had a lot of hobbies, great guy.”

“Good guy been around the world, it’s a shame to get killed right here at home doing what he wanted to do,” Gilliam said. “He finally got an airstrip and had his own airplane, his own hangar and living the life.”

We are told the plane’s canopy was missing. 

The official cause of the crash has not been released. 

The National Transportation Safety Board has been contacted and is investigating.

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