CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A West Virginia pilot died in a plane crash in South Carolina Monday afternoon.
John Prince Harris, 79, of Charleston, was flying a decommissioned British military aircraft when his plane went down in some woods in the North Santee area, said Jackie Broach, public information officer for Georgetown County.
The plane was a 1963 Folland Gnat T1, a two-seat fixed-wing turbo-engine jet, said Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board.
The crash occurred about 1:15 p.m., less than a mile from the Georgetown County Airport, she said. He was the only person aboard the aircraft, Broach said.
She said Harris had homes in West Virginia and in South Carolina and was on his way there to visit his wife and some relatives.
"He was well-known here," she said. "He owned property in the area and traveled regularly."
Broach said heavy equipment had to be used to clear the heavily wooded area in order to reach the crash scene.
She said authorities planned to send the body to the coroner's office in Georgetown County for an autopsy.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the NTSB are investigating the crash.
Harris is former president of West Virginia Steel in Poca. His father, J. Roy Harris, was an original founder of the company in 1934.
Bill Hawley, an employee of West Virginia Steel, said John Prince Harris served as president of the company until it was sold in 1998.
"I retired nine years ago and came back on part time," Hawley said. "When John P. worked here I was vice president in charge of sales."
Hawley said Harris was "a great leader, a good business man, and a gentleman along with it."
He said Harris was an experienced pilot.
"John P. was a colonel in the Air Guard and flew cargo planes all over the country until he retired," Hawley said. "He not only liked to fly, he built three airplanes himself as I recall."
Pilot Joe Cooke knew Harris personally for about 15 years, but knew of him longer than that. Harris was known around the Executive Air hangars and in the West Virginia Air National Guard as one of the best pilots around, he said.