A small plane crash near Oxford, Mississippi, on Sat. Apr. 13, 2019, killed all three people on board. The twin-engine jet crashed at approximately 3:20 pm in a wooded area between New Albany and Blue Springs as it flew from University Oxford Airport in Mississippi to Marion County-Rankin Fite Airport in Alabama. Officials are now investigating what caused the Rockwell Sabreliner 65 plane to crash. Severe storms were reported in the area, but investigators say weather may not have played a role in the crash.
The jet crash is a stark reminder of the devastation that an aviation accident of any size can cause.
Plane Began Fateful Journey in Colorado
Earlier on Saturday, the Rockwell Sabreliner jet flew from Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Broomfield, Colorado, to Oxford, where it briefly stopped at 2:45 pm to drop off former trial lawyer Dickie Scruggs and his family. About 20 minutes later the aircraft took off again, this time headed for Hamilton, Alabama. It crashed sometime within the following half hour.
Union County Sheriff Jimmy Edwards said his office received a notification at around 5:00 pm that the plane was missing from radar. According to Edwards, the pilot, Tommy Nix, told air traffic control he was experiencing electrical problems and was trying to correct the issue. Moments later, the plane lost radio contact.
At some point that evening, Dickie Scruggs received a text from a number he did not recognize asking him to call immediately. When he called, Scruggs was notified that the plane he’d been on earlier had lost communication with air traffic control. The person on the other end was a pilot who was trying to determine what had happened to the plane. Thinking Scruggs might still be on the aircraft, the pilot had contacted him for the plane’s location.
Because the plane crashed in a heavily forested area, rescuers did not find it for several hours.
“We couldn’t see any debris or anything, because it was in a heavily wooded area,” said Curt Clayton, emergency services director. “And once the rain come, it started washing the fuel down. One of the volunteer fire department members was driving home and smelled the fuel. So that’s what gave us the pinpoint back, actually, to the original location that we had on the map that we was searching to start with.”
Debris from the crash covered approximately one-quarter of a mile.
Residents who live near the crash site said they did not hear the crash but did see officials searching for the site. Race Stewart, whose sister lives near the crash scene, said they were shaken up to think how close the plane had come to her house.
Plane Crash Victims Remembered
Officials identified the victims as:
- Tommy Nix (pilot)
- Merline Nix (Tommy’s wife)
- Jarrod Holloway (co-pilot)
Friends remembered Tommy Nix, 70, as a highly respected pilot who had worked as Tishomingo County Airport manager. David Deaton, a family friend, once bought a plane but “wouldn’t fly it until Tommy went through it and taught me how to fly it.” Deaton also spoke of Merline Nix, 69, as being kind and gracious.
Dickie Scruggs said he’d flown with Nix on somewhere between 50 to 100 flights and had felt safe with him in charge of the plane.
Officials Investigating Crash
Early reports indicate that the plane lost contact at around 11,000 feet. The 1980 Sabreliner, a mid-sized business aircraft, is registered to Classic Aviation, in Alabama.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) examined the crash site. Officials noted that Country Road 120 could be closed for a few days as investigators looked for clues that could help them determine what caused the plane to crash.