HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. - A father of two in town on business was jogging and listening to his iPod when he was hit from behind and killed by a small plane making an emergency landing on the beach, officials said today.
Robert Gary Jones, 38, of Woodstock, Ga., died instantly Monday evening when he was hit by the single-engine plane, which had lost its propeller, said Beaufort County Coroner Ed Allen. The pilot's vision was blocked by oil on the windshield.
The coroner said Jones apparently did not see or hear the plane, which was "basically gliding."
His mother, Pauline Jones, said Tuesday that he was in Hilton Head for work but was supposed to fly home to suburban Atlanta on Wednesday for his daughter's third birthday.
Her son was often out of town for his job with pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, where he had been a salesman since 1997.
"Any time he traveled, I would worry myself to death about him," said his mother, who lives outside Tampa, Fla., where he grew up. "I'd call and say, 'Where are you, where are you?'"
Federal Aviation Administration records show the experimental Lancair IV-P plane that hit Robert Jones was registered to Edward I. Smith of Chesapeake, Va.
Smith was on the beach with his plane Tuesday and confirmed he was the pilot. He said he did not want to talk about the crash and offered few details.
"I've got a lot of issues going on right now. I've got a plane that's all torn up. And I've got a young man that I killed," he said.
Authorities said there was also a passenger on board but did not identify him or her.
The plane started leaking oil at about 13,000 feet and tried originally to make it to Hilton Head Airport, said fire and rescue spokeswoman Joheida Fister.
The oil on the windshield blocked Smith's vision and he told authorities the propeller came off. When he tried to land on the beach near the Hilton Head Marriott Resort and Spa, the plane hit Jones and came to rest a little farther down the beach, Fister said.
The plane was still on the beach Tuesday afternoon. Waves lapped against it and the tail was attached to an anchor with a rope so the tide wouldn't pull it out to sea. The waves had washed away any sign of it skidding across the sand.
Yellow crime scene tape stretched from the water to the dunes to keep people away. Tourists walked up to the tape, gawking and snapping pictures. Other than the missing propeller, the plane appeared undamaged.
The plane left Orlando, Fla., at 4:45 p.m. and was headed for Virginia, Fister said. The four-seater plane has a turbine engine, can be built from a kit and can fly up to 370 mph, according to the Lancair Web site. The IV-P model has a pressurized cabin.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating, Fister said.
An FAA spokeswoman referred inquiries to the NTSB.
Associated Press Writers Dorie Turner in Atlanta and Susanne m. Schafer in Columbia, S.C., contributed to this report.