by Joseph A. Gambardello & Will Feuer – Staff Writers
The plane came down about 9:15 a.m. along Smithville-Jacksonville Road near Oxmead Road, plowing through a field and across a roadway before tearing into a stand of trees, officials and witnesses said.
“The plane is disintegrated,” said Maj. Brian Polite of the New Jersey State Police. The victims’ names were not immediately released because their families were being notified.
Officials reported that the plane took off from South Jersey Regional Airport in Lumberton, about 10 miles southwest of the crash scene, and was en route to Hyannis, Mass.
The two men aboard the plane were pronounced dead at the scene, Polite said.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which is sending a team to investigate the crash, said the plane was a twin-engine Beech Baron 58, which can carry six people, including the pilot.
Polite said the NTSB team was expected to arrive Wednesday night and would take over the investigation.
Garret Andrew Rodriguez-Maribona, 27, of Eastampton, who discovered one of the victims, said he was on his way to a doctor’s appointment when the plane came down.
“It went so fast. It was like smoke just appeared,” he said. “There was so much smoke I couldn’t see the plane crash. In the smoke I saw a dark shadow cross the road.”
He stopped his car and got out.
“I saw a bunch of metal and thought maybe something underground blew up,” Rodriguez-Maribona said. “Other people started pulling up and getting out of their cars. That’s when I saw the shoe, glass, all that metal. I saw the propeller and I knew it was a plane.”
“If I had been speeding it might have hit me,” said Rodriguez-Maribona, who called 911. Rodriguez-Maribona said he and another man looked for victims.
“On the way back we decided to look at the plane and I didn’t see anything,” he said. “The other guy I was with went behind the plane and looked under the tail, and that’s when we found the body.”
He said he stayed at the scene until police told him he was no longer needed.
“I felt sick to my stomach,” he said.
Cellphone video showed debris scattered along a path that ran from a field across the a roadway and into a wooded patch.