Pilot, passenger identified after plane crashes into Lake Hickory

The plane crashed shortly after takeoff.
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating what led up to the crash.
Published: Aug. 13, 2023 at 12:29 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 14, 2023 at 6:02 PM EDT
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HICKORY, N.C. (WBTV) - Officials with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol have confirmed the pilot and passenger of a small aircraft have died following a crash Sunday morning.

It happened around 11:30 a.m. near Selkirk Drive, according to troopers. Shortly after taking off from the Hickory Regional Airport, a single-engine Super Petrel Amphibious Plane hit powerlines and crashed into the lake.

Around 18,000 customers were without power in Caldwell and Catawba counties shortly after the crash, according to a Duke Energy outage map.

Both the pilot and the passenger died at the scene, according to troopers. They were later identified by the highway patrol as pilot Jeffrey Jay Cooley, 63, of Granite Falls, and passenger Brian Frank Miller, 49, of Hickory.

“Jeff was a very experienced pilot, a very capable pilot and I have no doubt he was doing whatever he could do until the very end,” fellow pilot and friend Joe Brannock said.

Brannock believes the crash was caused by a medical or mechanical issue because the pilot flew around the lake several times before and was familiar with it.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating what led up to the crash.

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