Witness: Crossfield's Plane "Hit By Lightning"

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It should not be taken as fact -- eyewitness reports are rarely as accurate as the term suggests -- but one man who lives a few hundred yards from where the main wreckage of test pilot Scott Crossfield's 1960 Cessna 210 crashed last Wednesday said he saw the plane get hit by lightning just before it went down in mountains. "The plane just lit up, and then it went up a couple thousand feet and wheeled around," Gene Stone, 66, who lives near the border of Gordon and Pickens counties, about 70 miles north of Atlanta, told Cox News Services. "I thought it was heading back to the Gordon County airport, but then it sounded like the engine just cut off, and it went over the top of the pines as fast as it could."

A vicious thunderstorm, with reports of hail as large as golf balls, was reported in the area. Weather at Dalton, GA (DNN) near the route of flight was: wind 120 at 12, gusts to 24; visibility 3/4 statute miles in thundershowers; clouds broken at 400, overcast at 1500 feet. Crossfield had filed IFR out of Prattville, AL (1A9) for Manassas, VA (HEF). The flight plan was for 11,000 feet at 148 kts. Crossfield left Pratville, Ala., about 9 a.m. and dropped off radar screens about 11:14 a.m. Crossfield's last radio transmission was a request to divert south of his intended flight path to avoid weather. According to FlightAware's depiction of his track (free subscription required), he went down just after making the southward turn. FlightAware's data tracking function reports that the aircraft's speed dropped to 96 mph before radar contact was lost. The FAA's preliminary report on the crash notes thunderstorms were in the area with wind gusts up to 24 knots. Crossfield's body was found in the wreckage about 12:30 p.m. on Thursday in a wooded ravine about six miles east of Ranger, Ga. Scott Crossfield was 84.