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NTSB: Witnesses recall smoke coming from engines of small plane before crashing on NC interstate

DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. — Witnessed told investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board they saw smoke coming from the right and left engines of a small airplane before it crashed into a tractor-trailer Feb. 16 on a North Carolina Highway.

A pilot from Charlotte died in the crash and the driver of the 18-wheeler was injured.

Investigators said the twin-engine Beechcraft Barron crashed on I-85 near Lexington, North Carolina, in Davidson County.

The pilot, Raymond John Ackley, 43, died in the crash near the Davidson County Airport, the NTSB stated.

NTSB investigators talked to three witnesses and viewed video of the plane’s takeoff from the airport.

Witnesses said the plane was taking off before it descended and crashed into the back of the tractor-trailer. The impact caused a small fire.

One of the witnesses, who flew for a major airline, said “that the right engine was spewing dense white smoke,” the NTSB stated in its preliminary investigation released on March 3. Two other witnesses said smoke was coming from the left engine before impact.

The tractor-trailer drove off the road after it was hit and overturned. The driver, a Concord man, was taken to an area hospital with life-threatening injuries.

The crash happened after 5:30 p.m. and closed the southbound lane of the highway for an extended period of time.

Channel 9′s John Paul stopped by the homes of both the pilot and the tractor-trailer driver on Thursday.

Ackley’s family said they were not yet ready to discuss the tragedy.

In Concord, the driver of the semitruck answered the door in obvious pain. He said he just couldn’t do an interview.

Video from the scene showed both the tractor and trailer on its side. The tail section of the aircraft was seen next to the overturned rig. Firefighters could be seen spraying water as flames burned the ground next to I-85 with some debris scattered on the road.

One other injury was reported in this crash.

(Watch the video below: Plane with 8 aboard crashes off North Carolina coast; body recovered)