2 bodies found in plane wreckage near North Carolina airport

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Two people were killed when a small plane crashed near a North Carolina airport, prompting an intensive overnight search of a nearby state park and temporarily halting arrivals and departures of commercial flights, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol said Monday.

Sgt. Michael Baker reported the deaths at a news briefing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. The victims were later identified by aviation officials as Harvey Partridge and Patricia Partridge, both 72, of Terra Ceia, Florida.

Airport officials issued a statement saying search crews found the missing plane around 10 a.m. Monday near a trail at William B. Umstead State Park.

The Federal Aviation Administration said radar lost track of the Piper PA32 at about 7:25 p.m. Sunday as it approached Runway 32, the smallest of three landing strips and perpendicular to what the airport considers its primary runway. The FAA website said the single-engine plane typically has around six seats.

Rescuers from at least a dozen state and local agencies spent the night searching in and around the park, a 5,600-acre (2,260-hectare) wooded expanse bounded by an interstate, the airport and a state highway. The park remained closed Monday, and people were asked to avoid the area while authorities secured the crash site.

The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation into the crash.

Airport spokesman Crystal Feldman said Sunday night that the dense woods and darkness hindered initial phases of the search that included helicopters scanning for signs of heat coming from the wreck. Firefighters and other rescuers were shown on news footage heading into the woods with flashlights late Sunday and early Monday.

On Monday morning, authorities began launching drones from an airport runway to fly over the state park to assist in the search.

Air operations were halted for about 20 minutes Sunday night as firefighting and rescue units rushed to the wooded area. That caused a number of commercial flights into the airport to be delayed or diverted until regular operations resumed.

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