By Patrick Yost
A Florida family died tragically in a plane crash that was observed and heard across the southern part of Morgan County.
According to Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills, five persons were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash of a Piper 31T Cheyenne twin engine turboprop plane. Sills said emergency crews located the plane near Tanyard Road in Putnam County.
Sills identified the pilot of the plane as Larry Ray Pruitt, 67, Morriston Fla. Passengers in the plane included Pruitt’s daughter Jody Rae LaMont, 43; her husband Shawn Charles LaMont, 41, both of Gainesville and their children Jayce Lamont, 4, and Alice LaMont, 6.
The crash occurred at approximately 3:15 p.m. on Friday, June 5. Sills said the plane was traveling from Williston, Fla. to Newcastle Ind. to attend the funeral of Shawn Charles LaMont’s father.
Sills said he was in his office in Eatonton when the crash occurred. “I head the explosion. Everybody in the office heard it.”
He said a cousin called him immediately and told the sheriff he was on Seven Islands Road near U.S. 441 and “saw this fireball going across the sky.”
Sills said the airplane “had some sort of traumatic episode at 25,000 feet.”
An engine remains missing as well as the tail stabilizers, he said. Investigators with the Federal Aviation Administration were at the scene of the crash on Saturday. Sills said after the explosion he “followed the smoke” to the crash scene and found an airplane fully engulfed in flames. The plane crashed in a heavily wooded area.
The bodies of the five victims were transported to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab in Atlanta to confirm identification.
Morgan County resident Patsy Harris said she heard a loud boom from her Sugar Creek Trail residence. “I was in my house and heard it and felt it,” she said. “It was like thunder.”
Sills and Morgan County Sheriff Robert Markley said each county’s 911 center’s phone lines exploded during the incident. “I don’t know how many people saw it,” Sills said.