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Former Mississippi state senator dies in plane crash near Fayetteville

The pilot of a twin-engine plane out of Mississippi died after crashing into the Boston Mountains near Fayetteville Wednesday afternoon.

WASHINGTON COUNTY, ARKANSAS, Ark. — The pilot of a twin-engine plane out of Mississippi died after crashing into the Boston Mountains near Fayetteville, officials confirmed to 5NEWS on May 17.

Three hours after a plane was heard sputtering followed by a loud crash was reported to the Washington County Sheriff's Office (WCSO), the wreckage site was found in the Boston Mountains.

According to the WCSO, the plane lost altitude "and possibly crashed in south Washington County" at around 12:50 p.m.

The Round Mountain Volunteer Fire Department was on the scene and set up a staging area near Oak Grove Cemetery off Brentwood Mountain. Reports seemed to point to the incident happening somewhere between Highway 71 and Oak Grove. 

WCSO confirmed that the Fort Smith Airport Air Traffic Control also reported the possible plane crash after losing contact before 1 p.m. 

According to the Arkansas National Guard, their black hawk was on a training mission and unofficially assisted agencies in searching for the wreckage site. The aircraft wasn't officially requested, as that would come from the county judge through to the Governor and then to the Arkansas National Guard.

Credit: 5NEWS
Credit: 5News

Update (2:40 p.m.)

According to WCSO Lt. Rick Jensen, a call came in from someone who thought they heard a plane sputter and then a loud bang which sent authorities all over the area.

Three aircraft are currently up in the air (a military black hawk, a Mercy Health helicopter, and a helicopter registered with the Benton County Sheriff's Office). 

Ground units, central EMS, emergency management, state police, and multiple fire departments are helping.

Fort Smith air traffic control reported the possible plane crash after losing contact with the plane. The exact number of passengers on the plane isn't known but the type of plane can hold 8-12 people, Jensen said. He also said he was one of the first responders to the scene and "smelled fuel."

"We won't stop until we cover the entire area or find everybody," Jensen said.

Update (3:15 p.m.) "Only one soul on board."

The plane had "only one soul on board" which was confirmed to be the pilot, according to Jensen. Officials were able to ping the pilot's cell phone, which was last located in the area of the Brentwood Mountains.

Type of plane: King Air 90

Update (3:45 p.m.)

Authorities confirmed they have found what they believe to have been the crash site.

Update (4:25 p.m.)

Breaking: The pilot died in the crash, Fayetteville Fire Dept. confirmed.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that the wreckage of a missing twin-engine plane was found at 3:46 p.m. near Fayetteville.

The aircraft departed University-Oxford Airport in Mississippi earlier in the day. The FAA alerted local agencies about the missing aircraft on Wednesday, May 17 at 1:05 p.m.

Update (7:30 p.m.)

The WCSO confirmed that the plane crashed on private property between Carpenter Road and Ferry Road in steep, rugged terrain. 

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will arrive tomorrow, May 17 to investigate the crash.

WCSO states that it is believed —and confirmed by a family member— that the pilot was Johnny Morgan, a 76-year-old man from Oxford, Mississippi who served as a Mississippi state senator.

Credit: Johnny Morgan

Morgan is described by the city of Oxford's mayor as a man who "loved his hometown and was incredibly generous without ever wanting credit. He was generous with his time, his heart, and his money ... He was loved and appreciated and will be dearly missed."

Video of a black hawk on the scene:

5NEWS is on the scene gathering more information, and once more confirmed details are available this story will be updated.

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