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Small plane goes down in North Bryan
Authorities say three people killed
Bryan County Emergency Services personnel at the BCES command center set up in North Bryan after the report of a single-engine plane crash off Highway 280 near the Effingham County line. - photo by Ted O'Neil

UPDATE: As of 5 p.m., authorities have identified the passengers on the plane as William Cocke, 42, and Catherine Cocke, 39, of Savannah. The pilot still has not been identified pending notification of his family.

Authorities say there are no survivors after a single-engine plane went down Monday morning in a swampy, heavily wooded area of North Bryan near the Effingham County line.

Three people were on board the plane, which crashed about two miles from Highway 280 off Croft Road. Their identities have not been released. 

Bryan County Emergency Services Director Freddy Howell said the Federal Aviation Administration contacted his agency around 9:30 a.m. saying the plane was flying at an altitude of about 300 feet before it crashed.

Howell said the pilot and two passengers died in the crash.

The wreckage of the aircraft was found at 11:18 a.m. when it was spotted by a Coast Guard helicopter. Searchers included Bryan County Emergency Services, Bryan County Sheriff's Office, Effingham County Sheriff's Office and Effingham County Emergency Services. Emergency personnel used ATVs to get to the aircraft. 

Howell said about 40 to 50 personnel were involved in the search, including two boats on the Ogeechee River. There was no fire from the crash, so Howell said searchers could not locate it by following black smoke. He added that the pilot did not send out a distress call before the plane went down.

Authorities have closed off the area. Howell asked that the public stay away from the area. 

"It's very heavily wooded," Howell said. "Georgia Forestry is cutting a path for us to access the site."

The plane had reportedly taken off from Savannah and was headed to Cobb County when it went down. Howell said the Beechcraft Bonanza plane bearing the tail identification of N87RY was chartered from Falcon Field near Atlanta through a private company to pick the passengers up in Savannah and fly them to Cobb County. He added that he believed the couple was married as they shared the same last name. 

A woman driving a vehicle with a Chatham County license plate showed up at the Bryan County Emergency Services staging site at the Georgia Forestry office on Eldora Road around 1 p.m. She was visibly upset and crying. Howell later identified her as a nanny for the passengers on the plane.

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate, Howell said. Names are not being released until family is notified.

Jeff Whitten contributed to this report. 

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