COVINGTON, Ga. — Covington Police say they have identified a student pilot who died when the airplane he was flying crashed and burned on impact April 21 near a food production plant.
Edward Rodriguez, 33, of Lawrenceville, and a passenger who was training him to fly both died on impact when the Cessna 340 airplane they were traveling in crashed into parked tractor-trailers and exploded on impact about 300 yards from the General Mills plant in northeast Covington.
Rodriguez was identified from dental records, while GBI investigators are still working to identify the passenger, said Capt. Mark Jones of the Covington Police Department.
He said he had no other information on the victim or the flight instructor.
No one on the ground was injured and it occurred in a fenced area that was roughly 300 yards from General Mills’ production plant which operates around the clock, police officials said.
General Mills spokesperson Mollie Wulff said no employees were harmed in the crash.
"The plant did not experience any disruptions and it remains fully operational,” Wulff said.
FAA records show the Cessna 340 fixed-wing, multi-engine aircraft was manufactured in 1973 and certified as airworthy in 1985.
It was owned by Nixon Enterprises Inc. of Portales, New Mexico.
No other information was immediately available. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was investigating to find out the cause of the crash.
NTSB spokesperson Peter Knudson said April 22 the plane’s owner was receiving flight instruction on “touch-and-go landings” when the incident occurred.
The incident was reported around 6:45 p.m. after the plane took off from Covington Municipal Airport in a northeast direction and crashed about a half-mile away in an isolated area where tractor-trailers were stored on the General Mills grounds, Covington Police Capt. Ken Malcom said on April 21.
He said the plane hit some tractor-trailers on the ground about 100 yards east of the Harland Drive entrance to the plant near Industrial Boulevard in northeast Covington.
Witnesses said they believed the plane was having trouble gaining altitude and appeared to be gliding. They said they could hear what appeared to be engine trouble before the plane veered to the right and immediately went down into a tractor-trailer parking area.