Pilot dies when plane hits temple on Walton Way

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A small plane crashed into the side of a Jewish temple off Walton Way just before 7 p.m. Wednesday, destroying the aircraft and killing the pilot.

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Officials stand by the wreckage of a plane that hit Congregation Children of Israel Temple. No one on the ground was injured.  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Officials stand by the wreckage of a plane that hit Congregation Children of Israel Temple. No one on the ground was injured.

"It just glided right into the side of the building," said Vallirie D. Hooper, who was on her way to choir practice at Trinity-on-the-Hill United Methodist Church. "It was hard to tell if the engines were working. It was a flash and a flame."

Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said the crash occurred at 6:55 p.m., and that the plane had left Charleston, S.C., and was headed to Cartersville, Ga. Mr. Knudson said the pilot had reported an engine problem to air traffic control before crashing.

The plane, a two-seat, fixed-wing single-engine Piper, is registered to VPC Air Inc. in Cartersville, according to the Federal Aviation Administration's online registry.

What appeared to be wreckage lay on the west side of Congregation Children of Israel Temple at 3005 Walton Way, and the roof on that side appeared damaged.

Fire trucks and deputies blocked off Walton Way as curious neighbors gathered amid the blur of flashing lights.

Rabbi Robert Klensin was giving a speech at Covenant Presbyterian Church when he learned a plane had hit the temple. All he could think about was the dozen or so members of the congregation who were at the temple cooking.

Fortunately, no one inside was hurt, Rabbi Klensin said.

"It's very sad for the pilot who was killed and his family, but it is also a blessing no one else was hurt," he said.

Rabbi Klensin said he thinks it's possible the pilot was trying to make an emergency landing. From the air, the only spot not covered with homes and trees is the school parking lot just west of the temple.

"Maybe in the last seconds of life he was looking out for other people," Rabbi Klensin said. No one on Walton Way was hurt.

The season of Hanukkah, which began Tuesday, is a time to count blessings; one is the making of miracles. Looking from across the street at the west side of the temple, Rabbi Klensin said, "Look. He even missed both of the telephone poles."

Barrett Lane resident Nancy Foss, whose home is nearby, said the crash made the strangest sound and rattled her windows.

"At first I thought it was a transformer, then I heard a bang. Then there was a crunch."

Rabbi Klensin said it doesn't appear the temple sustained any structure damage. The fire and heat melted some of the roof overhang on the west side of the building.

Mr. Knudson said NTSB investigator Jill Andrews would likely be headed to the scene today to begin an on-scene investigation. He said that phase of the investigation would likely last three to five days, but a determination of cause in a plane crash typically takes as long as one year.

Staff Writer Timothy Cox contributed to this article.

Reach Tom Corwin and Sandy Hodson at (706) 724-0851.

Comments (23) Add comment
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pantherluvcik
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pantherluvcik 12/06/07 - 07:16 am
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My prayers go out to the

My prayers go out to the family of this pilot. But is mrs. Foss talking about a transformer like optimus prime?

ShakingMyHeadInShame
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ShakingMyHeadInShame 12/06/07 - 08:48 am
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How appropriate...the making

How appropriate...the making of miracles. Praise Him!!

GuyIncognito
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GuyIncognito 12/06/07 - 08:50 am
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Either Optimus Prime or an

Either Optimus Prime or an electrical transformer. It certainly would be more amusing to picture an attack from a giant, shape-shifting robot than a plane crashing into a temple.

mgroothand
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mgroothand 12/06/07 - 09:50 am
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It's the fascination with

It's the fascination with airplanes that I don't understand. Had this been a single car crash and the driver was killed, it would hardly have made the news. Because it was an airplane every newspaper in the country will carry the story.

sid2279
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sid2279 12/06/07 - 10:14 am
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1) Plane crashes are a lot

1) Plane crashes are a lot more uncommon than auto crashes
2) It struck a building,a religious one at that
3) We're ultra-sensitive now to planes crashing into objects

I agree that any loss of human life is tragic in unexpected circumstances but I'm laying out the reasons it would be more widespread.

cyphertube
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cyphertube 12/06/07 - 10:15 am
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Well, the interesting part

Well, the interesting part about the airplane is that if it had crashed differently, the entire building would easily have caught on fire and/or been demolished.

And so far, I haven't seen this reported anywhere else.

AsItIs
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AsItIs 12/06/07 - 10:19 am
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Rabbi Klensin is a class

Rabbi Klensin is a class act....media could take a lesson from him.....prayers to the pilot's family....

PetsArePeopleToo
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PetsArePeopleToo 12/06/07 - 10:23 am
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May God Bless the pilot and

May God Bless the pilot and his family.
Having taken flying lessons back in the 80's at Daniel Field I am not surprised that this has occured. The pilot having engine issues was probably looking for a safe place to land and perhaps was not familiar to the layout at Daniel Field. I feel that this is not the most easiest landing approach to make on any of the runways , much less with engine issues.

Gruvy Legz
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Gruvy Legz 12/06/07 - 10:29 am
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Planes ARE supposed to be in

Planes ARE supposed to be in the sky and automobiles REMAIN on the ground(sure there's a better word, but suffice). I suppose that's the fascination w/ a plane crashing onto the ground.

tiff418
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tiff418 12/06/07 - 11:09 am
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Having lost my father and

Having lost my father and stepmother in a plane crash four years ago, my heart goes out to the family of the pilot. It is an incredibly difficult thing to go through.

Brenda_G
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Brenda_G 12/06/07 - 11:11 am
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cyphertube, Richard Rogers

cyphertube, Richard Rogers reported that the plane hit the cement steps which acted like a barrier to the building, between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. last night.

mgr
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mgr 12/06/07 - 11:36 am
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mgroothand -If you see where

mgroothand -If you see where the pilot brought that plane down without hitting anything other than the building, it deserves to be in papers around the nation. It's amazing that he didn't clip anything else.

FallingLeaves
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FallingLeaves 12/06/07 - 12:31 pm
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I appreciate what Rabbi

I appreciate what Rabbi Klensin said. My condolences to the family of the pilot.

JohnnyMango
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JohnnyMango 12/06/07 - 01:40 pm
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Every one hates death and no

Every one hates death and no one wants to die. But as a pilot, I've been telling people for years - this is exactly the way I want to go. You make front page news for several days, it's over quick, your family usually gets a whole lot of money....and it beat being wrapped up in a diaper in a nursing home when your 80 years old. My prayers go out to the pilot's family - may they recover quickly!

BBR
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BBR 12/06/07 - 02:34 pm
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He was outstanding young man

He was outstanding young man driven by love of flying. Mechanical failure was out of his control, but navigating to avoid any further damage or loss of life shows his excellence in flight skills. This loss is devastating to our family.

hyper
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hyper 12/06/07 - 03:05 pm
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My Family's prayers goes out

My Family's prayers goes out to the family... and may God bless them!

tdh572
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tdh572 12/06/07 - 05:47 pm
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i know the pilot and family

i know the pilot and family pretty well and i just want to say to them you are in my prayers.sorry for your loss and god bless!So sad to see you all go through such a tragedy.Keep your head up and i will try to contact you soon,love zak!

rebeccab
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rebeccab 12/06/07 - 11:29 pm
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This man was a hero!! He

This man was a hero!! He missed everything, houses, cars, trees, light poles and at the last minute was worried about other people's safety rather than himself! God bless him! My children go to that school and I would be devastated if anything were to happen to it. My condolences to his family but they should be proud!

Tall1
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Tall1 12/06/07 - 11:39 pm
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It's worth the news coverage

It's worth the news coverage because he could have landed that plane on your family or friends homes. Instead, he searched for a place to land it where the least risk of killing others was to be had. He's a hero, and tell me the USA doesn't need more heros.

Son of God
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Son of God 12/08/07 - 01:08 pm
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To God be the Glory for

To God be the Glory for everyone who did or did not make comments on this article. God has received the pilot in his bosom and are now waiting to receive you while you have a chance to receive him before your crash. May the pilot live forever in Heaven and may we live holy and think on Heavenly things before we leave this earth thus seeking Eternal Life. Have you ever thought that God landed that plane where he wanted it? Read and meditate on Deuteronomy 32:39. I would type it on here but God did not let me because God wants you to search the scriptures more and study to show yourselves approved. Out of the abundance of the mouth, the heart speaketh. Be blessed and remember that God is Love.

Son of God
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Son of God 12/08/07 - 01:08 pm
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To God be the Glory for

To God be the Glory for everyone who did or did not make comments on this article. God has received the pilot in his bosom and are now waiting to receive you while you have a chance to receive him before your crash. May the pilot live forever in Heaven and may we live holy and think on Heavenly things before we leave this earth thus seeking Eternal Life. Have you ever thought that God landed that plane where he wanted it? Read and meditate on Deuteronomy 32:39. I would type it on here but God did not let me because God wants you to search the scriptures more and study to show yourselves approved. Out of the abundance of the mouth, the heart speaketh. Be blessed and remember that God is Love.

HOPE
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HOPE 12/08/07 - 01:26 pm
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May the good lord be with his

May the good lord be with his family at this terible time in their lives and may God take this man into his loving arms and let him know peace and happiness forever. Amen

mlanier6
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mlanier6 12/08/07 - 07:18 pm
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I am so thankful to finally

I am so thankful to finally hear in the news a worthwhile story. We have become so accustomed to hearing about shootings and other terrible acts. Thank you to the parents for raising a responsible young man. I am sad for you but so happy to hear that someone did the right thing for a change. I am proud to call him a fellow aviator.

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