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August 28, 2012 06:06 PM

Pilot Dead After Pierre Plane Crash

Pierre, SD

Federal authorities are investigating a deadly plane crash at the Pierre Regional Airport.

The airport manager says the single engine plane crashed during take off around 9:45 Tuesday morning. Only the pilot was on board at the time.

According to Federal Aviation Administration records, the plane was an SQ2000 registered to a Paul Lee of Pierre. And according to records, Lee built it.

The crash destroyed the small plane. Airport manager Mike Isaacs says it landed midfield and burned, killing the pilot inside.

"We're in the early stages of the investigation," Isaacs said.

Although Lee is registered as the plane’s owner through the FAA, local authorities aren't confirming who the pilot was who died.

Ashley Hughes lives near the airport and says she must have just missed the crash.

"Well I came outside and there was a big black plume of smoke and then a few seconds later you heard all the sirens and stuff," Hughes said.

Isaacs says people heard the plane take off but authorities haven't found anyone who witnessed it go down.

"Typically those aircraft crashes take quite a bit of time to determine what happened," Isaacs said.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are leading the investigation.

Isaacs says thoughts and prayers from the flying community are with the family. Others around Pierre echo that too.

"My heart goes out to the family. That's just so sad that something like that has to happen,” Hughes said. “You never wish that on anybody."

Safety records show this plane had problems while landing in North Dakota in 2005. Again in 2006, the plane's landing gear failed in Michigan.

Lee has a website where he documents each step he took to build the plane.  He also has a travel log where the most recent post says he recently replaced the plane's engine.

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