A University of Mississippi student and her parents died July 8 when their single-engine Piper Cherokee Lance airplane broke apart in the air and crashed near Tupelo.
Caroline Bartley, a 20-year-old sophomore majoring in biology, was returning to Ole Miss after spending time with her family at their vacation home in the North Carolina mountains. Although investigators don’t know for certain who was piloting the airplane when it crashed, the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed that James Bartley Jr., Caroline’s father, had his pilot’s license.
Dr. Bartley was a partner in a Columbus, Georgia podiatry practice. His wife Terry Bartley was also aboard the airplane. There were no other passengers. Caroline was the Bartleys’ youngest daughter. She is survived by two sisters, Sherry and Christen.
Investigators haven’t determined the cause of the crash, but people near the crash site 35 miles northeast of Tupelo reported seeing a thunderstorm in the area around the time the plane went down at 2:00 p.m.
The crash left a field of debris that covered about half a mile of a wooded area. Prentiss County Emergency Management Director Ralph Lauderdale told the Associated Press that that the fuselage containing the plane’s occupants probably fell 8,000 feet to the ground, judging from the site of impact and other evidence. Emergency workers could not easily access the victims once the fuselage was found because it was partially buried in the ground. Responders also had trouble getting equipment to the wooded site.
According to the Hattiesburg American, the crash was the second small airplane crash in Mississippi in less than two months. A single engine Beechcraft Bonanza BE 36
crashed in central Mississippi near the Alabama border May 31, killing the pilot and sole occupant. Officials say that crash may have been storm related.