OXFORD • Federal investigators are in Oxford trying to determine what caused a single-engine plane to crash Saturday afternoon on the Ole Miss golf course.
National Transportation Safety Board air safety investigator Ed Malinowski said crews will be onsite through at least today collecting evidence from the crash that took the life of pilot Lake Little, 18, of Starkville.
According to reports, Little was piloting a Cessna 172 owned by the Civil Air Patrol and doing touch and go landings at the Oxford airport. The plane crashed near the 17th hole tee box around 3:15 p.m. July 6. The crash site is about 500 yards north of the airport runway.
“I have not had a chance to talk to the witnesses,” Malinowski said. “I was told the plane was climbing up. It made a turn and was slow, descended and impacted the terrain.
“We can check the integrity of the control cables to determine if the pilot was in control at the time. We will be on the scene another day or so. Right now, we are capturing perishable evidence.”
Malinowski said investigations usually look at the airplane, the pilot and the weather. He has already requested the maintenance history of the 22-year-old plane. They will also look into the flight experience of Little, who was a student pilot.
The flight plan Little filed said she was to fly from the Golden Triangle Regional Airport to Oxford and then return to the Columbus area.
According to CAP national commander Maj. Gen. Mark Smith, Little was a Cadet Master Sergeant in the organization and the flight was part of training to receive her private pilot certificate.
“Right now, our focus is on the cadet’s family and the members of her local squadron,” Smith said. “This is a tragic accident and we are praying for peace and comfort for everyone involved. We are working with the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration to determine what caused the crash.”
Once the NSTB concludes its onsite work, the CAP will move the plane from the recovery site. Malinowski said that should happen by Wednesday. The initial NTSB report on the crash will be available in about a week. It could take six months to a year for the final report to be published.
Following the crash, Little was airlifted to a trauma center in Memphis, Tennessee, but she succumbed to her injuries, said University Police Chief Ray Hawkins.
She was the daughter of Starkville alderman David Little and Pattie Little and graduated from Starkville Academy in May. On the school’s Facebook page, she is described as “a kind-hearted, talented, and inspiring young woman who brought joy to so many people.”
She was selected to represent Starkville in Mississippi’s Miss Hospitality competition later this month.
“Lake had a vibrant personality. She was full of life and lived it to the fullest,” said Starkville Miss Hospitality director Angella Baker. “She was very passionate about flying and had just recently received her private pilot’s license. She wanted to eventually become a pilot for FedEx.”
She planned to study speech pathology and audiology at the University of Southern Mississippi and wanted to open her own speech pathology clinic to help children and the elderly while maintaining an aviation career.
Memorials for Little can be made to the First Baptist Church Youth Mission fund in Starkville.
The golf course was closed during the weekend following the crash. It was reopened Monday afternoon with golfers skipping the 16th and 17th holes.