Friends, family remember pilot killed during air show at PDK

- A pilot died Saturday afternoon after his plane crashed during an air show at DeKalb Peachtree Airport, according to authorities.

Friends told FOX 5 the pilot was Greg Connell, from South Carolina and of Greg Connell Airshows.

"He was a great pilot, we flew together a lot," said Gary Ward, Connell's mentor and friend of 20 years. "I've been actually working with him for quite a number of years, training him, trying to bring him up to speed with the air show stuff."

Ward was performing the stunt with Connell at the Good Neighbor Day Air Show when the plane took the deadly nose-dive.  

PDK director Mario Evans said, in its 30 years, the air show has never had a fatal crash.

“I knew the pilot personally. I don’t want to go any further. I’m just emotional,” Evans said.

Lenny Burns and Kseniya Skrabovskaya, who fly planes too, witnessed the crash while eating dinner near the show.

"We were waiting for the moment when he would pop right up but that didn't happen. The first thing we saw was a puff. And that turned out to be dry clay. Immediately, I knew this is was going to be a sad situation," Burns said.

According to Connell’s air show website, his interest for aviation began at a very young age because of his father who is a pilot. Connell began flight training in 1989.

"He was a man of great integrity, just the most honest guys that I have ever known," said Ward.  "The guy I would trust my life with."

On Connell’s Facebook page it says “Please keep Greg’s family and friends in your prayers. There are no words to describe what we are feeling right now. God bless & Godspeed Greg.”  Friends said Connell was 50-years-old.

DeKalb County Public Safety Director Cedric Alexander said no spectators were hurt.

The National Transportation Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the crash.

NTSB Investigator Ralph Hicks told FOX 5 crews have moved the plane wreckage to Griffin, Ga. for further examination. He said large parts of the plane were destroyed in the fiery impact but there's still enough evidence to determine the cause of the accident.

Crews will look into factors that may have contributed to the "man, the machine and the environment," Hicks said.

The NTSB said it could take up to nine months before investigators determine the cause of the crash.

The Flag at DeKalb Peachtree Airport is at half staff in honor of the pilot.

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