Retired trooper killed, two others injured in plane crash on golf course

Boone plane crash
Published: Apr. 25, 2016 at 5:17 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 27, 2016 at 5:51 PM EDT
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BOONE, NC (WBTV) - A retired North Carolina State Trooper was killed when a small plane carrying three people crashed on a golf course in Boone Monday afternoon, the Boone Police Department says.

The incident happened around 1 p.m. at the Boone Golf Club, located on Fairway Drive near Deerfield Road. The golf course is not far from the Boone Inc Airport, off of Bamboo Road. Officials say the small plane took off from the airport just moments before the crash.

Late Monday evening, officials identified the three people on the plane.

Retired NC State Trooper Benjamin (Ben) Franklin Chappell, 69, was pronounced dead at the scene. Officials said during his time as a state trooper, Chappell was stationed in Watagua County. He lived in Boone.

John Field Worsley II, 68, and Steven Cox Berry, 43, were both seriously injured in the crash. One was flown to Winston-Salem and the other to Johnson City. They both are suffering from severe burns and, as of Monday night, were listed as being in critical condition.

"We are deeply saddened by this tragic event. Everyone in law enforcement in Watauga County knows Ben Chappell and his family. It is difficult to have to work a scene where all of us know at least one of the victims," said Chief of Police Dana Crawford. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the Chappell family at this time. We also want to wish the very best to Mr. Worsley and Mr. Berry and are praying for a speedy recovery for them and for the comfort of their families."

Several Boone neighbors heard the crash.

"It was a loud crash. It sounded pretty close, like right outside, when we heard it," said Jacob Wooldridge.

In a 911 call, one woman said the "plane crashed and burst into flames" on the 13th hole of the golf course. At that time she didn't know if there were any survivors.

Witnesses on the golf course say the plane appeared be in trouble and clipped the tops of some trees and before crashing onto the course. Two witnesses turned into rescuers, police say, and were able to pull two people out of the plane.

The plane, which caught on fire, was heavily damaged when it crashed.

Mike Howell heard the crash as he was leaving the nearby hospital. He says he rushed over to see if the rescue workers needed any help.

"Being a pilot myself, and a firefighter, I knew if there was something I could do to help, I would do it," Howell said.

Howell shot video of the rescue workers clearing the crash site. He says he has never seen anything like the explosions from the plane after it had crashed.

"The fireman you saw in the video was going up to it before the second explosion happened," Howell said. "The first one the flames went over the trees. It was big, big flames."

"We are very saddened by this loss and extend our condolences to the family," Boone police said Monday evening. "We hope and pray that the survivors will be OK but serious injuries were sustained."

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will be responding to conduct further investigation.

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