(TheBlaze/AP) — Investigators believe a small plane that crashed in the Alabama woods was taken without permission for a joyride by three teenagers who died in the wreck Tuesday night.
Walker County sheriff’s Chief Deputy James Painter said Wednesday authorities are still investigating, but believe the teenagers took off in the Piper PA 30 before it went down in a wooded area near Jasper, northwest of Birmingham.
“We don’t know for sure but we think it was some teenagers who stole the plane and were sort of joyriding it,” Painter told The Associated Press. “They got it in and took off and didn’t go very far.”
He continued: “I think they were just looking for a thrill and they had their last one.”
The names of the three occupants of the plane haven’t been released, but at least one was reportedly a student pilot.
“It was a student pilot flying an airplane without permission, an airplane that he was not qualified to fly at night,” airport manager Edwin Banks said.
The teenage pilot had flown a single-engine airplane in the past “and he got in a double-engine at night in bad weather with a couple of his buddies,” Banks added.
Margaret Swann said the plane crash happened “just across the fence” from her home, about a quarter of a mile away.
She also had some more information on why, perhaps, details have been slow in coming. Essentially, she said, the plane crashed in an area that has become a vast swamp with recent rain.
“This land here, if it’s dry, you can go on it,” she warned. “If it’s wet, stay off.”
The Piper PA 30 is also called a Piper Twin Comanche. It is a low-wing plane with two propellers and can seat four to six, depending on the model.
Swann added that the plane took some time to locate, and that responders didn’t leave until roughly 4 o’clock in the morning.
“I feel so sorry for the families of the young men in the plane…it’s a terrible, terrible thing,” she concluded.