Wardlaw killed in plane crash
By By Kim Swindell WoodEditorkim@myspartanews.comOriginally published: Friday, Oct. 30, 2009, 3:44 PM CDT | October 31, 2009 12:00 am
(Editor’s note: Photos and a portion of the information are courtesy of CBS Atlanta News.)
The pilot killed in a Friday afternoon plane crash in Georgia has been officially identified as James Wardlaw, 58, of Atlanta, formerly of Sparta.
Wardlaw had lived in White County for several years where he was a well known optometrist.
Chief Forensic Investigator Ted Bailey, of Gwinnett County Medical Examiner’s Office, officially released Wardlaw’s name as the pilot more than 24 hours after the crash occurred. Wardlaw’s family members, in White County, were reportedly notified about his death, on Friday night, Oct. 30, and the information quickly spread through the community. However, The Expositor could not officially release his name until receiving confirmation today from the medical examiner.
Wardlaw was the pilot of a twin-engine Cessna 310 that was headed for Sparta when it crashed at approximately 12:15 CDT into a house in Lawrenceville, Ga. According to the medical examiner, Judith Kirchner, of Lawrenceville, Ga., was a resident of the house into which the plane crashed. Kirchner also died at the scene.
The Expositor spoke with Capt. Tommy Rutledge, public information officer with Gwinnett County Fire Department, on Friday, Oct. 30. Rutledge stated the plane crashed approximately three-and-a-half to four miles from Briscoe Field, which is where the plane’s flight had originated.
The flight plan of the plane indicated its destination as Upper Cumberland Regional Airport, in White County.
At 6:40 p.m., Oct. 30, The Expositor again spoke with Rutledge. He was preparing for a press conference with National Transportation Safety Board.
At 11:55 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 31, The Expositor spoke with Rutledge for an update. He explained that the FAA, NTSB and Gwinnett County Fire Department were on the scene of the crash, separating parts of the plane from the house. Rutledge said this is a “very tedious” process because of the “tremendous destruction.”
He also advised firefighters were extinguishing “hot spots” as they moved the debris.
Rutledge said he spoke with Kirchner’s husband. Mr. and Mrs. Kirchner were both inside the home at the time the Cessna crashed into the structure. Mr. Kirchner said he works from home and was upstairs when he felt a strong vibration. He reportedly rushed down the stairs and was met with extreme heat and flames. According to Rutledge, Mr. Kirchner said the family-room area, downstairs, was engulfed in flames. This is the section of the house where Mrs. Kirchner was at the time the plane hit. Mr. Kirchner told Rutledge the front door “was gone,” and he exited through that opening. Neighbors reportedly told Rutledge they had to restrain Mr. Kirchner from reentering his residence as he attempted to rescue his wife.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with this family and the family of the pilot,” said Rutledge.
The cause of the crash has still not been determined. Firefighters on the scene reportedly said the house was engulfed in flames upon their arrival.
According to Kathleen Bergen, of Federal Aviation Administration, the plane was registered to Doctors Aircraft Services, in Sandy Springs, Ga., and KM Aviation, in Meridian, Idaho.
Additional updates will be posted as soon as additional information is available.