The 31-year-old pilot whose plane crashed Thursday night tried to land at Augusta Regional Airport before turning and heading toward Burke County, according to Diane Johnston, the airport's marketing director.
Details on why the landing was unsuccessful and reasons for the plane's crash were not released Friday because the investigation, which is being led by the National Transportation Safety Board, was ongoing.
Tom Saxon, who owns the property off Saxon Road where the single-engine 1976 Aero Commander crashed, was with his brother at their mother's house near Georgia Highway 23 when they first heard the plane overhead at 7:15 p.m.
"I heard something spitting and sputtering," he said. "About (that) time I heard another noise (and) I ran out into the opening and saw it going down behind the trees."
The plane crashed about 300 yards away in Saxon's millet field. He said it barely missed his cow pasture.
The pilot, Barrington Carl Slack, of Lithonia, Ga., parachuted safely and asked a passing motorist to take him back to the crash site, said Burke County sheriff's Sgt. Dan Lowe.
Slack told authorities he left Covington, Ga., about 4 p.m., headed for Columbia.
Lowe said the pilot appeared unharmed and refused medical attention. Saxon said he was surprised that the pilot was so calm and wondered why the pilot had a parachute. Saxon asked Slack if this was his first jump.
"He said 'No, it's the second time I've jumped,' " Saxon said. "I didn't ask him if the first time he had to jump or if he was jumping for pleasure."
Authorities were unsure where Slack went after leaving the crash site or where he was Friday.
According to the FAA, Kalunji Aviation Group in Atlanta owns the aircraft. The Georgia Secretary of State's Web site lists Slack as the company's agent.