Thank GOD no one else was killed!

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. —

A small plane crashed minutes after takeoff in DeKalb County, smashing into the interstate and killing four people.

The plane crashed onto Interstate 285 eastbound at Peachtree Industrial Boulevard just after 10 a.m. Friday.

Traffic reopened on westbound lanes three hours later, but eastbound lanes remain closed until just before 3:30 p.m. Friday.

DeKalb County Public Safety director Dr. Cedric Alexander said there were three men, a woman and a pet on board the plane.

The victims were identified as Christopher, Phillip, and Greg Byrd, and Jackie Kulzer.

The pilot, Greg Byrd, was a retired Buncombe County, North Carolina deputy, and father to Phillip and Christopher.

The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office say, “This is a tremendous loss for his family, the Sheriff’s Office and the community.”

Christopher and Jackie were engaged. Jackie is a graduate of St. Pius X Catholic High School in Atlanta.

The school said, “Jackie is remembered as a wonderful young lady, very popular, very energetic, out-going individual that was always concerned about others.”

Christopher Byrd worked as a property manager in midtown Atlanta.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne say a source told him Greg Byrd “calmly” reported an issue “climbing out” and said, “Hey, we’re going down.”

Winne’s source told him that the pilot mentioned he was headed to Oxford, Mississippi, to graduation then after he was airborne, a controller asked if he was flying the heading he had been given and the pilot replied, “Yes,” but he was having a problem climbing.

The source said the pilot’s next transmission was to the PDK tower saying they were going down.

Witnesses say they felt the impact of the plane crash on the interstate, but somehow the pilot avoided hitting any vehicles.

“The impact was large, like a bomb being dropped,” said witness Don McGee.

Gerald Smith told Channel 2’s Tyisha Fernandes that he was driving his tractor-trailer along I-285 when he saw the plane flying lower than usual, and that it was coming straight him.

Smith said he was able to stop the big rig before crashing into the plane, but not before it clipped the front of his truck.

“I guess it was just God telling me to slam on brakes to see whether it would go on in front of me, but by the time I hit the brakes I heard the impact hit the front of my truck and not knowing what to expect, I looked at the front of my truck and the only thing I seen was the mirror laying down, I looked back to my left, once I stopped the truck and that plane was just against the wall burning,” Smith said.

Witness Blake Green told Fernandes that the plane propeller flew off on impact. He said the impact sounded like a bomb going off.

Green said he tried to run over and help get the people out of the plane but it was too late.

“As soon as it hit, it burst into flames, there wasn’t anything you could do,” Green said.

The FAA tells Channel 2 Action News it was a Piper PA-32 aircraft that went down after departing from Runway 3 Left. It was flying to Oxford, Mississippi.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant searched for records on the plane and learned it was licensed to an LLC in Asheville, North Carolina, belonging to Greg Byrd.

Channel 2’s Richard Elliot was the scene Friday afternoon as investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board removed the wreckage from the expressway and took it to their facility in Griffin to reconstruct the incident and try to figure out why the plane went down.

“It’s not going to be difficult. The airplane is somewhat complex, but it shouldn’t be a problem. Once it gets to Griffin, we’ll be able to reconstruct it and figure out what happened,” said NTSB investigator Eric Alleyne.

The NTSB told Elliot that the reconstruction of the entire aircraft which will take about two weeks. A final crash report will take six months to a year.

We have several reporters working to learn more about the tragic crash. Refresh this page and watch the Channel 2 Action News Nightbeat at 11 for updates.

– 4 people were killed in this plane crash yet some idiot actually has the fucking GALL to “Thank God” that more people weren’t killed, only the pilot and his family including one of his son’s fiance! This total ignorance demonstrates the cognitive dissonance demonstrated by the faithful on a minutely basis! This is a goddammed tragedy that killed 4 fucking people, PERIOD!

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