By Lisa O’Donnell
LEXINGTON — A twin-engine plane that had just taken off from nearby Davidson County Airport on Wednesday slammed into the rear of a tractor-trailer traveling south on Interstate 85 during the afternoon rush hour, killing the pilot and closing the highway for hours.
The pilot, identified as Raymond John Ackley, 43, of Charlotte, died at the scene. The driver of the tractor-trailer, Barrin Lamont Davis, 41, of Concord, was treated for minor injuries at Lexington Medical Center.
The Federal Aviation Authority identified the plane as a Beechcraft Baron.
The N.C. State Highway Patrol said in a news release that the plane may have experienced a mechanical issue. The patrol responded to the call around 5:10 p.m., Trooper Ned Moultrie said.
The crash scene is less than a mile from the airport. At some point, the plane descended and hit the tractor-trailer, causing it to ignite and overturn, Moultrie said.
Benjamin Nelson of Trinity was northbound on I-85 during his daily commute when he saw a cloud of black smoke a few miles ahead of him.
A former employee in the aviation industry, Nelson knew that the airport was in that area.
“I worried something had happened,” Nelson said. “At first, I thought a vehicle caught fire but then I saw the tail of an aircraft.”
Nelson saw pieces of the plane scattered in pieces and the median on fire.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash.
“Why the aircraft descended, that will be the determination of the FAA,” Moultrie said.
The southbound lanes of I-85 between exits 87 and 91 were closed for hours. Moultrie said he didn’t know when they may reopen.
This is the second fatal plane crash in North Carolina this week.
On Sunday, eight people died in a crash off the coast.