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Small plane crashes amid severe storms in eastern Mississippi; 1 killed

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Update: Preliminary report: Pilot attempted to navigate storms before Miss. plane crash

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating the deadly crash of a small plane in eastern Mississippi late Thursday afternoon.

Noxubee County Sheriff Terry Grassaree said E.R. "Tracy" Shirley III of Newcastle, Okla., died in the crash. He was vice president and chief financial officer for Harrison Gypsum Co. of Norman.

Authorities said the plane crashed just before 5 p.m. in the Mashulaville community in a catfish pond, about 15 miles southwest of Macon. The plane had departed from St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport in Clearwater, Fla., with a destination of University of Oklahoma Westheimer Airport in Norman, Okla.

A strong to severe line of thunderstorms was moving into the area at the time of the crash.

A witness said the crash area had been experiencing high winds and lightning and that lightning may have struck the plane, causing it to explode in mid-air, according to WCBI-TV.

The debris field stretched in a straight line across about a two-mile area with the largest part of the plane in a pond, said Scott Boyd, editor and publisher of the Macon Beacon, a weekly newspaper in the area.

Jim Peters, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman, said air traffic controllers in Memphis had lost contact with a single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza BE36 Thursday afternoon.

The storms on Thursday packed widespread damaging winds that left thousands without power across Mississippi. Four people were injured from fallen trees.




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