Crashed plane carried 4 teens who’d been on hunting trip

Ben Finley and Michael Kunzelman
Associated Press

Four teenagers and four adults returning from a hunting trip were on board a small plane that crashed off the coast of North Carolina over the weekend, authorities announced Tuesday.

One body has been pulled from the Atlantic Ocean by search crews combing the area and there is no indication that anyone survived the crash, Carteret County Sheriff Asa Buck said Monday.

Everyone on board the plane was from North Carolina, and most lived in Carteret, a coastal county of nearly 70,000 people that includes the southern edge of the Outer Banks.

The sheriff’s office identified the adult victims as pilot Ernest Durwood Rawls, 67, of Greenville; Jeffrey Worthington Rawls, 28, of Greenville; Stephanie Ann McInnis Fulcher, 42, of Sea Level; and Douglas Hunter Parks, 45, of Sea Level.

The teenage victims were identified as Jonathan Kole McInnis, 15, of Sea Level; Noah Lee Styron, 15, of Cedar Island; Michael Daily Shepard, 15, of Atlantic; and Jacob Nolan Taylor, 16, of Atlantic.

Carteret County includes communities such as Emerald Isle and Atlantic Beach as well as the Cape Lookout National Seashore and its iconic Outer Banks lighthouse, which has a black-and-white diamond pattern.

“We are incredibly saddened and join with the Down East and Eastern North Carolina community as we await official word on the airplane crash,” the Carteret County Public Schools said in a statement early Monday afternoon. “Crisis teams are on school campuses to support students, staff and families.”

Search crews were still looking for the main body of the plane on Monday. Authorities had identified three debris fields, which had been moving farther off shore into the Atlantic Ocean.

U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Matthew J. Baer told reporters Monday that multiple vessels from various agencies were continuing the search for the plane. In a tweet Monday night, the Coast Guard said a cutter would remain on the scene overnight.

“We’ve got an all-hands-on-deck event going on here,” Baer said. “And we want the citizens of Carteret County and eastern North Carolina to know that your Coast Guard is out there doing our absolute best alongside our partners.”

The Coast Guard said in a news release that it received a report of a possible downed aircraft on Sunday about 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) east of Drum Inlet from a Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point air traffic controller. The air traffic controller reported that the aircraft was behaving erratically on radar, then disappeared from the screen.

The single-engine Pilatus PC-12/47 crashed into the water approximately 18 miles (29 kilometers) northeast of Michael J. Smith Field in Beaufort, North Carolina, about 2 p.m. Sunday, according to an email from the Federal Aviation Administration. A preliminary accident notification on the FAA’s website noted that the aircraft “crashed into water under unknown circumstances.”

FlightAware listed a departure for that plane from Hyde County Airport at 1:35 p.m. Sunday and noted it was last seen near Beaufort at 2:01 p.m.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

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Associated Press news researcher Jennifer Farrar contributed to this report.