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At least 1 person found dead in search for plane with 8 people that crashed off North Carolina

The single-engine airplane went down about 2 p.m. Sunday after it was spotted behaving erratically on radar, officials say.
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One person has been found dead as authorities search for an airplane carrying eight people that crashed off North Carolina on Sunday.

The Pilatus PC-12 single-engine airplane crashed about 4 miles east of Drum Inlet at around 2p.m. on Sunday, the Coast Guard said in a statement Monday.

Drum Inlet, N.C.
Drum Inlet, N.C.Google Maps

Personnel with the Coast Guard Sector North Carolina command center received a report ofa possible downed aircraft” from an air traffic controller at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, indicating that the “aircraft was seen behaving erratically on radar and then disappeared from the radar screen,” the statement said.

The report prompted the Coast Guard to launch boat crews from Coast Guard Station Fort Macon and Coast Guard Station Hatteras Inlet and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter aircrew from Air Station Elizabeth City. Local fire, sheriff’s department and National Park Service beach crews also responded.

Searchers found a debris field in the area, Coast Guard spokesperson Petty Officer Edward Wargo said.

At a news conference Monday afternoon, Carteret County Sheriff Asa B. Buck III said the body of someone on the plane was found Sunday and identified by authorities.

Buck declined to name the person and said the search for the seven other people continued.

The sheriff's office on Tuesday named the eight people on board in a statement, all of them from North Carolina, but did not specify if more than one body was found.

They are: Ernest Durwood Rawls, 67, of Greenville; Jeffrey Worthington Rawls, 28, of Greenville; Stephanie Ann McInnis Fulcher, 42, of Sea Level; Jonathan Kole McInnis, 15, of Sea Level; Douglas Hunter Parks, 45, of Sea Level; Noah Lee Styron, 15, of Cedar Island; Michael Daily Shepard, 15, of Atlantic; and Jacob Nolan Taylor, 16, of Atlantic.

Ernest Durwood Rawls piloted the airplane, the sheriff's office said. The group was returning from a hunting trip in Hyde County to Beaufort, officials said.

The sheriff's office extended its "deepest sympathies and condolences" to the families affected, the statement said.

During a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Buck said investigators recovered bodies and plane equipment. But he wouldn't say how many of the eight presumed dead were found.

"We have been able to recover remains from passengers on board and also some of the equipment that we'd been able to bring to the surface."

Buck said he's hopeful equipment recovered will help personnel with the National Transportation Safety Board determine "what happened with the plane in flight just prior to the crash."

The Carteret County Public School System said in a statement Tuesday the tragedy had affected several of its schools.

"It has been confirmed that four students from East Carteret High School are among those who passed away in the crash," the statement said. "School counselors, school psychologists, and school crisis team members have responded from across the school system to serve and support the students, staff, and families in the impacted schools." 

"The Carteret County Public System continues to express its deepest concern, support and sympathy for those involved and affected by this tragic event."

Speaking with NBC News on Monday, Buddy Goodwin said his wife’s sister, Stephanie Fulcher, was on the plane along with her son, Kole and her fiancé, Parks, when the aircraft crashed.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the crash occurred about 18 miles northeast of Michael J. Smith Field in Beaufort.

The FAA and the NTSB are investigating the incident, the statement said.