Home Vehicle Accidents The full story of the Dec. 28, 2019 plane crash in Lafayette that killed 5 people

The full story of the Dec. 28, 2019 plane crash in Lafayette that killed 5 people

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LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) –  An eight-passenger private plane took off from Lafayette Regional Airport on the morning of Dec. 28, 2019, at around 9:20 a.m. with six people on board. By 9:21 a.m., the plane had crashed near the U.S. Post Office on Feu Follet Road, killing five of the plane’s passengers and sending a total of four people — including the plane crash’s sole survivor — to local hospitals.

This is the entire story of the crash and the investigation that followed.

Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019

Six people boarded a twin-engine turboprop Piper Cheyenne on a foggy, December morning. Robert Vaughn Crisp II and Wade Berzas, VPs for Global Data Systems, situated themselves on the left side of the plane, facing each other. Gretchen Vincent, the wife of Global Data Systems owner Charles Vincent, sat on the right side, across from Carley McCord, a reporter with WDSU in New Orleans. Gretchen’s son, Michael, sat up front, next to the pilot, Ian Biggs.

In an early morning flight, the group was set to leave Lafayette Regional Airport, bound for Atlanta, Ga., where LSU was taking on Oklahoma in the 2019 Peach Bowl. Along with the slight fog, it was an overcast day with low clouds. According to an interview with Wade Berzas, he had flown with the pilot, Biggs, many times. Berzas said Biggs was known to “climb aggressively” after take-off. The cloudy conditions that day meant that Biggs was making an attempt at getting above the clouds.

According to flight data from flightaware.com, the plane only achieved an altitude of around 375 feet before descending. Berzas remembers feeling “a bit of a jolt” while the plane was still in cloud cover. The jolt felt a bit harder than normal and he felt as if the plane was still going up. Moments later, he heard someone exclaim, “We are going down, people.”

Berzas would be the plane crash’s only survivor.

Eyewitnesses explained that the plane took out power lines and struck a nearby occupied vehicle – the driver of which was among the bystanders taken to the hospital. Video and photos showed a trail of scorched and burning grass around the crash site. The blackened car sat in the post office parking lot, which was carpeted with scattered tree limbs.

Witnesses described the sound of explosions, people screaming, and plumes of black smoke and flames. Kevin Jackson said he heard a “massive explosion” and saw a “big old ball of flame” when the plane crashed. He and other eyewitnesses told News 10 that someone could be heard screaming inside the vehicle that the plane struck as it fell.

The impact of the plane blew out the windows of the nearby post office, and two people inside the post office were among those transported to the hospital, primarily for smoke inhalation, according to Lafayette Fire Chief Robert Benoit.

Those killed in the crash:

  • Gretchen D. Vincent, age 51
  • Ian E. Biggs, the plane’s pilot, age 51
  • Robert Vaughn Crisp II, age 59
  • Carley Ann McCord, age 30 
  • Michael Walker Vincent, age 15

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