A stunt pilot whose plane crashed in New Orleans last week, killing him and a local television journalist, reported unspecified problems shortly after taking off, federal officials said Saturday.
The pilot, Franklin J.P. Augustus, had been cleared to return to New Orleans’ Lakefront Airport when the aircraft struck the ground in a nearby field, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a statement.
The crash also killed Nancy Parker, 53, an award-winning anchor with a local Fox affiliate.
Witnesses said the plane appeared to have engine problems shortly after lift off, the NTSB said, adding that much of its wreckage was destroyed in a fire.
Parker, who earned five Emmy Awards for her work as a journalist, was reporting a story on Augustus when she died.
Parker was a fixture in New Orleans and at the station she worked at for 23 years. Her colleagues choked back tears as they shared news of the fatal accident during their newscast.
“Nancy was absolutely a joy to work with each and every day,” said the station’s vice president and general manager, Tim Ingram. “Today we lost a wonderful journalist and remarkable friend, the New Orleans television community lost a true treasure, but beyond that, her family lost a wife, a mother and daughter. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.”
Parker is survived by her husband and three children.
Celebrities and local officials, including the New Orleans mayor, expressed grief over the deaths.
“New Orleans did not just lose a five-time Emmy-winning journalist, or a familiar, comforting face on our TV screens,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell said. “We lost a mother of three, a beautiful human being, and an invaluable member of our community.”
Augustus was a New Orleans native known for introducing young black people to flying and working as an anti-drug advocate. He described himself as the “world’s only black civilian air-show acrobatic pilot,” the Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported.
“Both victims lost in this tragic incident were beloved, one-of-a-kind individuals,” Cantrell said. “Our hearts and our love go out to their families and all who knew them. May Nancy and Franklin both rest in God’s perfect peace.”
The National Transportation and Safety Board said it was investigating Friday’s crash and identified the plane as a Pitts S-2B aircraft, a light biplane used in aerobatic competitions since the 1940s.
The Parker family announced Saturday that it had started a scholarship fund to honor Nancy Parker, a native of Opelika, Alabama, through the Community Foundation of East Alabama.