A single-engine plane packed with sky divers preparing for a formation jump stalled shortly after taking off Sunday and nose-dived onto a rural road, killing all 17 people aboard, officials said.
The Cessna 208 Caravan, owned by Air Carrier Express Services and leased to the Westwind Sports and Parachute Center, stalled three minutes after taking off from a private airport 45 miles south of Atlanta and crashed at about 12:15 p.m., police said.
An FAA inspector grounded the Cessna on Friday after discovering that its fuel was contaminated and notified the plane’s owner of the problem, FAA spokesman Roger Myers said Sunday night. It was not known if the problem had been fixed.
Another FAA official, Jack Barker, questioned whether the plane had the capacity to carry the 16 jumpers aboard, along with the pilot.
Club spokesman Bill Scott said that the aircraft was certified by the FAA to fly 17 people.
Officials said that the owner of Air Carrier Express, David Williams, 35, of Atlanta, was among those killed in Sunday’s crash, and no company officials could be reached for comment on possible causes of the accident.
Barker said that the plane climbed to an altitude of 1,000 feet before witnesses saw it stall. A second plane spotted the wreckage.
“They saw the crash site and they came back, picked up experienced jumpers and then went back out,” said Chuck Garwood, a jumper who missed the plane because he arrived late at the airfield.