Federal investigators say a prominent Midlands real estate icon reported mechanical issues on the small experimental plane he was flying shortly before it crashed Saturday, killing him.
The Lexington County Coroner’s Office said 85-year-old Robert “Bob” Russell of Columbia died after the BR Legend Turbine Legend aircraft crashed into a small pond one mile west of Columbia Metropolitan Airport. Russell was the only person onboard besides a dog that was also killed, according to The State newspaper. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident.
Initial information from the Federal Aviation Authority said Russell had taken off from Columbia on a flight to Asheville around 9:15 a.m. Saturday. The FAA said Russell had reported a mechanical problem shortly after takeoff and was returning to the airport when his plane went into the pond. The pond is located close to the county-run Pine Grove Sports Complex.
Russell is one-half of the founding namesakes of the Russell & Jeffcoat real estate firm, which is the largest in the Columbia area with more than two dozen branches scattered throughout the Midlands. Russell partnered with the late Abb Jeffcoat to open the company in 1965.
The plane was pulled out of the pond around 4:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon.