The loss of American Airlines pilot James Harper is being felt across the company, but especially in Charlotte where he was based as an Airbus captain. Harper was killed Friday when the Piper PA-31 he was flying crashed shortly after takeoff.
The plane was registered to PJS, LLC based in North Myrtle Beach, according to FlightAware. Data from FlightAware shows the plane took off from Myrtle Beach International Airport at 6:12 p.m. and shows a flight path that ends near the location of the crash.
Controllers at Myrtle Beach International Airport could be heard communicating with Harper moments before the crash.
Witnesses who saw and heard the plane before it crashed told News13 they ran over to help.
“We saw this plane going super low overhead, heard a noise like a bang or a pop and just ran over across the street through the traffic seeing if we could help, seeing what happened,” Sarah Ortega said.
An off-duty Horry County police officer who witnessed the crash tried to help but was injured, authorities said.
In a Twitter post, HCPD Chief Joseph Hill said the officer, who hasn’t been identified, was knocked off his feet when the aircraft exploded. He was resting at home Saturday morning after being taken to the hospital. Hill called him a “true hero.”
The FAA and NTSB are investigating the crash.
News13 reached out to American Airlines, which said it did not have a public comment.