A 51-year-old Rock Hill man was killed Thursday afternoon when his single-engine plane crashed in a soybean field in rural southern York County.
Teddy Hargett learned to fly just recently and enjoyed taking his plane up in the mornings before his second-shift job, relatives told authorities. At some point before noon Thursday, Hargett took off from a grass strip near Chappell Road just north of the Chester County line.
A short time later, a passing motorist dialed 911 after spotting the plane nose-down in a field, about 300 yards off the road, authorities said. Hargett was pronounced dead at the scene, said interim York County Coroner Sabrina Gast. An autopsy is scheduled for today.
The aircraft, identified as a Skyranger II sport plane, apparently struck the ground with such force that its nose was left buried in the dirt.
Employees at nearby Chappell Animal Hospital described hearing a boom that happened so quickly they thought it might be a gunshot from a hunter.
"Booms happen out here all the time when they're shooting guns," said David Smalls, who was cleaning horse stalls at the time. "There's a lot of hunting around here. I didn't come out until I heard the ambulances."
Smalls said he didn't hear anything to indicate the plane was having trouble, such as an engine malfunction or propeller noises.
Plane built from a kit
The Skyranger II is a "kit plane," meaning owners build it from parts that arrive in a box. A pilot's license is required to fly it. Records show Hargett registered the plane with the Federal Aviation Administration in December 2007.
FAA investigators from a field office in Columbia arrived at the scene around 4 p.m. to inspect the wreckage. It could take up to a year for findings to be issued.
Hargett took off from a grass strip behind the home of York County Councilman Curwood Chappell, a fellow pilot who keeps his own plane in a storage shed next to his home. Chappell visited the site soon after authorities arrived.
The crash is believed to be the first involving a fatality in the Rock Hill area since 2006, when two passengers died in a crash near the Rock Hill/York County Airport.
Rock Hill native Eric "Ted" Johnson, 43, and Dr. Bill Coulman of Ohio, the plane's owner, were killed instantly in that crash. The pilot, Matthew Sullivan of Ohio, suffered serious injuries but survived.
Earlier this year in the western York County community of Filbert, a four-seat Piper made a crash landing in the middle of a peach orchard, but no one was seriously hurt.
Deep roots in Rock Hill
The Hargett family is well-known around Rock Hill. Many remember Hargett's father, Kenneth "Bean" Hargett, who was shot and killed in December 1993 during a botched robbery at the Roadside Market grocery on Saluda Street.
The elder Hargett owned the grocery, also known as the P-Nut store. Three teenagers were convicted of the crime after a lengthy and emotional trial.
Hargett's wife, Billie Ann, would come to the courtroom each day with relatives to hear testimony. During one hearing, she approached the defendant accused of pulling the trigger and said, "I forgive you."
On Thursday, she was confronted with another loss through tragic circumstances.