Beaufort County couple die in Winston-Salem crash

The Associated Press

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Officials have released the names of a Beaufort County couple who died in a plane crash in Winston-Salem earlier this week.

Police say 58-year-old Dr. Dennis O'Neal and 56-year-pold Debbie O'Neal of Blounts Creek died in the crash Sunday afternoon.

Dr. Dennis O'Neal worked at Washington Eye Clinic in Washington, N.C. Debbie O'Neal had taught English at East Carolina University since 2004.

Brian Rayner with the National Transportation Safety Board said both victims were pilots. Rayner did not say who was flying the LanCair LC 42.

The plane had left North Wilkesboro and was headed to Washington, N.C. Rayner said the plane was at about 4,000 feet when the pilot alerted air traffic control that it had lost partial engine power.

Air traffic controllers directed the plane to Winston-Salem but it crashed several miles short of the runway in some woods.

The plane suffered significant fire damage, and the engine will have to be rebuilt for the investigation, Rayner said.

The weather was bad enough that the pilot was flying using instrument flight rules.

The wreckage was scattered over about 100 yards. Investigators were collecting evidence from the site and were interviewing witnesses, Rayner said.

The Washington Eye Clinic's Website says Dennis O'Neal joined the practice in 2000.

Debbie O'Neal worked for the school's University Language Academy, which helped teach international students conversational English, said Jeannine Hutson, a spokeswoman for East Carolina.

The NTSB will issue a preliminary report later this month. A more detailed report will follow in a year or so, Rayner said.

The NTSB board will review that report and release a probable cause of the crash.

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