65ºF

Pilot ID'd in fatal Marion County plane crash

Downed trees from severe weather delay first responders

WILLISTON, Fla. – A pilot died Tuesday morning in the crash of a small plane in Marion County, officials said.​

The crash was reported around 9:10 a.m. in a pasture at 21850 N.W. 150th Ave. Road in Williston, Marion County Fire Rescue officials said. 

Deputies identified the pilot of the small, experimental aircraft as Riley Stevens, 64. Stevens, who is from Anderson, South Carolina, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to a news release.

Authorities covered the wreckage of the pieces of the plane with a tent to preserve the evidence as investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration combed through the pieces throughout the day. They're trying to learn what caused the plane to go down.

The plane was heading from Sebring, Florida, to Clemson, South Carolina. It crashed in the midst of a tornado warning, with swirling winds and heavy rain hitting the area. The storm was so bad, Marion County Sheriff's deputies had difficulty getting to the scene. 

"There were trees down on the road, so deputies were doing the best they could to get here as quick as they could,"  said Lauren Lettelier, Marion County Sheriff’s Office public information officer.

"It broke my front door open," a neighbor said, referring to the storm.

He said he felt lucky the storm was the only thing responsible for the damage to his house, since the plane crashed into a field not far from him.

"It could have hit the house, I reckon," he said.

Deputies said it's unclear if the severe weather was a contributing factor in the crash.

The FAA said the plane was a VIRUS-SW experimental aircraft.

MCSO deputies and detectives are currently assisting the FAA in plane crash investigation in Micanopy, Florida.

Posted by Marion County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday, April 4, 2017

About the Author: