Authorities identify plane crash victim
By Nathan Hardin
GRANITE QUARRY — Kathy Smith of Gold Hill was the last person to meet Cecil Dwayne Brown.
The Faith man landed his amphibious aircraft Sunday afternoon in High Rock Lake near Tamarac Marina, where Smith was standing on the deck. She went to the shore and helped him out.
"I thought, 'Oh, wow. That's cool,'" she said.
It was only Brown's second time landing the plane in the lake, she recalled him saying.
"He was so nice," Smith said. "My little boy was full of questions and he just seemed like he was so tickled that someone was interested."
But something went wrong later that day as Brown flew his experimental light sport aircraft above Rowan County. Shortly before 6 p.m., the plane went down in a field near Shaw's Mobile Home Park in Granite Quarry.
Several neighbors in the area called 911, and crews "did a short search" before finding the downed plane, said Frank Thomason, director of emergency services for Rowan County.
Brown was pronounced dead at the scene. He was 49.
The Rowan County Sheriff's Office and N.C. Highway Patrol conducted a preliminary investigation. Several fire departments and the Rowan Rescue Squad and Rowan EMS assisted.
Federal Aviation Administration investigators surveyed the scene Monday morning. There's been no word yet on what caused the crash.
Brown, of West Second Street in Faith, was a sociable person with a penchant for boating and flying, friends said.
He was also a frequent customer at Tamarac.
After finishing lunch, Smith said, she shared laughs with Brown as she helped him strap himself back into the plane.
"You kind of have to put it on," Smith recalled Brown saying. "We laughed about that."
Smith helped Brown shove off, she said, and he cranked the engine, did a flyover and waved again at her little boy.
She said she "couldn't believe it" Sunday night when a friend called with news of the crash.
Longtime friend Kim Barringer said everyone in the area knew Brown, who often went by the nickname "Zig."
"He never met a stranger," said Barringer. "That's just the type of fella he was."
Barringer said Brown had been a pilot for more than 20 years.
"He had just bought this plane about a year ago," he said.
Authorities said Brown departed from the Rowan County Airport Sunday. Barringer said he shared a hanger with him there.
Area residents said they heard the plane's engine shut off just before the crash Sunday evening.
The plane struck several power lines as it went down in a field between Troutman Street and Old Stone Church Road.
Crews were allowed to remove the wreckage around 1 p.m.
Several of those assisting Monday were friends of Brown's.Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.