Two men died in a single-engine plane crash in south Bibb County as Memorial Day activities were winding down Monday evening for many Middle Georgians.
Bibb County Coroner Leon Jones said the bodies were recovered shortly before 9 p.m.
One of them was burned beyond recognition, he said.
The men are tentatively identified as Anthony Cabeza, 58, of Dutchman Court in Greer, S.C., and Julius Gilreath, 71, of Collins Creek Road in Greenville, S.C.
An Anthony "Tony" Cabeza is listed on LinkedIn as a corporate pilot the owner of Pilot Services in Greenville.
A Piper PA-32 aircraft, registered to an entity in Greenville, crashed about one mile northeast of Robins Air Force Base at 6:05 p.m., according to Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen.
The flight took off with two people on board from Apalachicola Municipal Airport in Apalachicola, Fla., and was headed for Greenville Downtown Airport in Greenville, S.C., Bergen said.
The Bibb County Sheriffs Office got a call from Houston County 911 at about 6:20 p.m. Monday saying that a plane went down near the Houston-Bibb line off Ga. 247 near Feagin Road.
The plane crashed in a swampy area off St. Clara Drive near Zora Place.
Jones said the wreckage was about 500 yards off the road.
Its treacherous out there, Jones said. Its rough. Its logs. Its trees. Its very dangerous going out there.
Houston County Emergency Management Agency Director Jimmy Williams said Houston County firefighters were the first on the scene and two units fought through the murky ground and swamp where mosquitoes and other bugs were swarming.
The Houston County crews were able to confirm that no one on board the plane survived the impact, Jones said.
Early reports indicated that two adults and a child were killed, but there was no child on board, Jones said after the bodies were recovered.
Once jurisdiction was established, Houston County turned the scene over to Macon-Bibb County firefighters, who tried for more than two hours to cut through the heavy brush.
Robins Air Force Base dispatched a large crash truck, and a Houston County light truck was brought in to illuminate the woods as the sun was beginning to set.
The recovery effort in the dense brush and clear-cut trees grew more complicated after snakes were spotted in the boggy terrain, Jones said.
Houston County firefighters warned him to watch out for the snakes.
Im scared of snakes, but I had to go back down there, said Jones, who was dressed in white coveralls. Initially, he only made it about 300 yards into the brush and still could not see the plane, he said.
Just before 8:30 p.m., a bulldozer arrived from the Georgia Forestry Commission to cut a path through the woods so crews could get the necessary rescue equipment to the crash site.
It took nearly three hours for crews to get the bodies out of the plane.
A trio of hearses drove up about 7:45 p.m. just before Bibb deputies roped off St. Clara Drive to prevent private vehicles from making it close to the scene.
Ambulances from The Medical Center of Central Georgia and Mid Georgia Ambulance kept vigil on the country road.
At the beginning of the recovery effort, a Georgia State Patrol helicopter circled overhead to give rescuers a better idea of how to get to the plane.
Jones said they thought the chopper might be the best way to airlift the victims out, but they decided to go by land instead.
Bibb County Sheriffs Office Public Affairs Officer Clay Williams was on the scene, but the FAA has taken over the role of releasing information to the public.
Federal investigators are expected Tuesday to begin their probe to determine what caused the crash.
Local authorities will remain with the plane until the FAA releases the scene.