TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Tuscaloosa Police have confirmed that six have died in a plane crash that happened around 11:30 a.m. near the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport in Northport, according to our news partners at al.com.
Police say the plane was travelling from Kissimmee, Florida to Oxford, Mississippi when the pilot reported engine problems. There was an attempt to divert course to Tuscaloosa Regional before the plane went down.
FAA spokewoman Arlene Salac said the Piper PA-31 crashed into trees on approach to the runway.
"It's tragic to lose these wonderful Mississippians. Deborah and I pray for the loved and lost, their families and friends,'' said Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant. "Life can be so uncertain, so we depend on the blessing of eternal life and reuniting. May God assuage the families' sorrow and hold them all in the palm of his hand."
Among the deceased are Dr. Jason Farese and his wife Dr. Lea Farese, who were both dentists at Farese Family Dental in Oxford. The Farese's leave behind three children ages 10, 7, and 5. The youngest just started kindergarten this week.
According to their dental practice website, both Drs. Farese graduated from the University of Mississippi School of dentistry and practiced at the North Benton County Health Center.
Dr. Michael Perry, a periodontist, and his wife Kimberly, who is a nurse leave behind three children. Dr. Perry practiced at MidSouth dental Implants and Periodontics and was a graduate of Ole Miss.
Ole Miss Chancellor Jeff Vitter said the crash was a "heartbreaking loss."
Dr. Austin Poole, a dentist practicing out of Clarksdale, and his wife Angie were also among the deceased. The Pooles are survived by five children.
The three couples had gone to Florida for a medical conference.
According to the Oxford Eagle, flight information shows that Oxford University Aircraft Charters LLC. operated the plane. Mississippi Secretary of State records show the registered agent of the company, Oxford University Aircraft Charters LLC., which was owned by the Fareses.
“On behalf of the entire community, well, it just saddens us to the bottom of our hearts,” said Oxford Mayor Pat Patterson. “Everyone on that plane was generous with their talent and resources to the community. It’s just an unspeakable loss.”
Patterson said the city’s flags have been lowered in respect to the families.
Multiple agencies worked at the site of the crash that was just outside of the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport grounds in a wooded area known as Gate 1.
All six victims have been removed and taken to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences in Montgomery for autopsies.
"It's a sad day," Northport Mayor Bobby Herndon told reporters gathered at the scene. "We want everybody to pray for the families."
Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox credited the joint efforts of multiple law enforcement agencies and fire departments that responded to the crash.
"It really speaks to the collective response of all the different agencies that were involved," Maddox said.
As for learning the cause of the crash, the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff Ron Abernathy Sheriff said that the crash investigation will be a "long, deliberate investigation."