HIGH POINT, N.C. --
A man who escaped with his three children Wednesday after a plane crashed into his house said he heard a horrifying sound, then told his children to get out.
Sochan Rumthao said he had just walked into his kitchen when the crash happened.
"The moment I get into my kitchen, I heard a big, horrifying sound that hit between my back yard and my neighbor's. The moment I heard that sound, (I heard) a big, giant wind at the back of my living room," Rumthao said.
Calls to 911 dispatch centers in Guilford County and High Point released Thursday show pandemonium Wednesday evening after the plane clipped a first house, then slammed Rumthao's in the quaint neighborhood in northern High Point.
Dozens of calls describe the explosion from the crash, which killed Dr. Thomas W. Littlejohn, of Winston-Salem, as well as the pilot, who hasn't been identified.
"We have a house that looks like it exploded," one caller, who identifies himself as a Forsyth County firefighter, said.
He's then heard telling onlookers to stand back.
"We need to get everybody away from this house. There is a plane inside this house," he is heard telling people in the background.
Another young caller reported an explosion.
"There was an explosion in our woods. There's smoke everywhere," the boy said.
"Did you see what it was?" the dispatcher responded.
"No sir. I just saw an explosion."
Officials said the plane, a Beechcraft Baron, was attempting to land at Piedmont Triad International Airport. It had been en route to Winston-Salem when it was diverted to Greensboro due to adverse weather conditions, officials said.
It crashed on Brian Hollars Court in the Frasier Downs neighborhood off Sandy Ridge Road at about 5:45 p.m. while on its approach to the runway. No one was home in the first house. Four people were in the second home and made it out safely.
Audio obtained by WXII from the air traffic control tower at PTIA shows some tense moments before the plane was reported down.
"We're stopping everybody. Nobody's moving. It's all yours. I'm not hearing you right now. You guys do what you gotta do," the controller is heard radioing to the plane. "We're not moving anybody until they either find that airplane or they call us."
After no response from the plane, the controller scrambled to find information about the flight plan.
"Smokey four negative. We didn't have anything on him except a call sign. I've got a flight plan on these guys and that was literally it," the controller said. "Call sign was -- give me a second, I'll find it -- Logistic 569. It was a Beechcraft Baron, but I have no idea how much fuel or souls or any of that."
Jim Downing, who lives one street away from the home, said he was on his way home from work when he heard an explosion.
“I could see the flame and fire and some kids were jumping around,” Downing said.
Downing said he ran over to find out what happened, but by that time, the father, identified Thursday as Sochan Rumthao, and his three children were outside. Rumthao's wife was in Georgia at the time of the crash.
Not long after, fire crews arrived at the home and began dousing a fire that broke out. The fire was extinguished by about 7 p.m., officials said.
“There was various piles of debris in the back yard of the house and the back yard of the house next door. It almost is like it dropped from the sky,” Downing said.
Downing said the plane crashed at the ground level of the home.
“I was in the house watching TV and I heard a loud bang. I ran outside and saw the engine in the street. Some people were yelling. Some people were crying. Initially I thought a car had crashed into the house,” another witness, Carl Hall, said.
MaryJo Rumbaugh is one of the neighbors who gave the family shelter shortly after the crash.
She described what Rumthao told her happened inside the home.
"He just started cooking and then he heard a beeping and a crash. And the next thing you know -- he said within seconds -- the whole back door area and the wall just crashed in. A sofa turned over and he saw what he said looked like a big whale into his house," Rumbaugh said.
The plane is owned by Charlotte-based Jet Logistics, which offers charter flight services in North Carolina.
According to a flight plan on FlightAware.com, the pilot left Raleigh at 7:11 a.m. and picked up Littlejohn at RJ Reynolds Airport in Winston-Salem
The plane left for Wilmington at 8:50 a.m. and returned at 4:23 p.m. It was scheduled to land at 5:19 p.m.
Dr. Thomas W. Littlejohn III
Crews from the National Transportation Safety Board were at the scene Thursday investigating the crash.
Safety inspector Dennis Diaz said the wreckage stretches over a quarter mile. He said officials spent the day gathering evidence and would follow up with a preliminary report within five to 10 days. The final investigation report would take at least nine months, Diaz said.
Littlejohn was the president and medical director at PMG Research and a founder of the Maplewood Family Practice in the Robinhood Medical Plaza.
PMG Research has offices in Winston-Salem, Wilmington and seven other locations in North Carolina and Tennessee. According to Littlejohn's bio, he has more than 20 years of experience as a primary investigator in clinical trials.
"He was a gifted physician, astute businessman and excellent medical partner. We will miss him greatly, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family," said Dr. Tom Cannon, a physician at Maplewood Family Practice.
Pilot Speculates On Cause Of Crash
A pilot familiar with the type of aircraft that crashed said Thursday that he doubts the weather played a part in the crash.
Bill Vaughan speculated that a possible explanation is that the plane's artificial horizon, a device that allows the pilot to fly with instruments rather than by sight, may have failed. Such a failure would have left the pilot blind.
Vaughan said that based on the information that’s available, the pilot was 2 minutes away from landing at PTIA's newest runway, l-5. At that point the pilot would have transitioned to a visual approach, Vaughan said, but if the airport wasn't visible, the pilot would have declared a missed approach and climbed back up.
"The weather didn’t play a factor in that it caused the accident. The malfunction of the equipment caused the accident," Vaughan speculated.
Man Who Escaped Plane Crash Speaks Out
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