OROVILLE, Calif. — Eight executives of one of Georgia’s largest public companies survived a fiery crash in California on Wednesday when their private plane skid off a runway after an aborted takeoff.
NBC News reported the Graphic Packaging International executives, along with two pilots, all escaped the twin-engine Cessna Citation after it aborted takeoff for reasons that aren’t yet clear.
“They were out of the plane quickly,” Rick Carhart, a spokesman for fire response agencies in the area, told 11Alive’s sister station ABC10 in Sacramento.
According to Atlanta Business Chronicle, the Sandy Springs-based company is the 19th-largest publicly-traded company in the state.
“I came out and saw a lot of black smoke that was filling up the sky,” a witness told NBC News. “It happened so quickly and the fire was very much active.”
The plane was taking off from Oroville, Calif. on its way to Portland, Ore.
The National Transportation Safety Board and FAA are investigating the crash.
Joe Deal, the Oroville fire and police chief, told ABC10 the plane never lifted off as it attempted to take off.
“It was attempting to take off, but early reports show that it never made it off the ground,” he said.
The airfield’s manager, Rick Farley, told ABC10 that particular plane’s landing gear is not designed to function on any surface other than pavement – which is why it came to a rest flat on its belly.
“When you drive up and the aircraft’s totally destroyed by fire, you’re wondering how anyone could’ve gotten out of it,” he said. “What a relief, especially when you look at the small amount that’s remaining of that aircraft.”
Graphic Packaging International has not said which specific executives were aboard the aircraft.