The Civil Air Patrol yesterday identified the victims of a single-engine airplane crash near Front Royal as two Northern Virginia construction workers who were on a pleasure trip to Morgantown, W.Va.
The crash, which is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board, occurred Aug. 24 when a leased, four-seat Cessna 182RG piloted by William Michael Driggers, 23, of Reston slammed into a fog-shrouded mountain in the northern section of Shenandoah National Park. Also killed was Jeffrey Billings, 34, of Herndon.
Although the twisted and charred wreckage of the white plane was discovered about 100 yards from heavily traveled Skyline Drive, the crash site was so hidden by the thick brush that it took until Sunday to locate the plane when scent-trained dogs were called in to help.
The search, one of the most extensive local officials can remember, involved at least 545 rescue workers from three states, who flew 215 search hours covering an estimated 2,300 square miles, said Col. Royce Harrison of the Virginia Wing of the Civil Air Patrol.
Authorities said the Cessna took off at 5:45 p.m. from the Manassas Municipal Airport under cloudy skies, with visibility at four miles. Soon, it encountered low clouds enveloping the mountain tops.
Although details are sketchy -- Driggers did not file a flight plan or make radio contact with the ground before the crash -- authorities believe Driggers saw the clouds and decided to return to Manassas.
They believe he tried to turn 180 degrees at an altitude of 2,000-feet when he crashed in the fog at 6:29 p.m., about two-thirds of the way up a mountain. The impact ripped off the plane's wings and ruptured an 85-gallon fuel tank, causing the Cessna to burst into flames.
Driggers, described by authorities as a cautious pilot with about 160 hours of flying time, was not yet qualified to fly in bad weather, using instruments. He had been taking flight instruction in the Cessna from Dulles Aviation Inc. of Manassas, officials said.
In another aviation matter, the search continued yesterday in three states for the 33-year-old pilot of a single-engine plane reported missing last Friday while on the way from Baltimore to Ohio.
Civil air patrol volunteers in Maryland, West Virginia and Ohio searched for Nelson Harvey, 33, a self-employed businessman from Baltimore who was last seen about 6:30 p.m. Friday when he took off in a single-engine Citabri Champion to visit relatives in Xenia, Ohio, officials said.