09/21/07 — Plane crashes into Clayton McCalls

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Plane crashes into Clayton McCalls

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on September 21, 2007 2:03 PM

A small single-engine plane crashed into McCall’s Bar-B-Que & Seafood Restaurant on U.S. 70 in downtown Clayton today at about 10 a.m. — an hour before the lunch rush was to start.

Co-owner Randy McCall said there were only about 15 employees in the restaurant at the time of the crash. None were injured.

“If they were, they must be extremely minor because nobody’s said anything to me,” he said.

Pat LaCarter, public information officer for Johnston County Emergency Management, however, confirmed that there has been one fatality, possibly the pilot. He said the call came in at 10:10 a.m.

All of the employees in the restaurant — mostly cooks, dishwashers and managers — were apparently working in the back, McCall said.

It’s not likely that any wait staff were there yet.

“If anybody had been in the front, they probably would have been killed,” he said. “All we know is the plane came through our roof and front and landed somewhere near our buffet, and that there was an explosion and a pretty big fire. It’s just a good thing that we weren’t open for lunch yet.”

Co-owner Worth Westbrook said that the restaurant holds approximately 375 people and a typical Thursday lunch crowd totals around 300.

“If it had been about two hours later, we would have had a big problem,” Westbrook said.

The cause of the crash is not yet known.

Kathleen Bergen, a spokeswoman for FAA in Atlanta, said she did not yet have any information about the plane but said it “was a smaller airplane, flying low, out of controlled airspace.”

Little else was known about the plane at press time.

“All we know is the plane is in the building. We have been unable to enter the building because the structural integrity of the building is flaky right now,” LaCarter said.

He explained that because of the explosion and fire, the number on the plane’s tail cannot be read, and that without some sort of identifying information they don’t know where the plane came from or how many passengers it might have held.

And while it’s still too early to tell, McCall did say that he expects the building and most of the equipment in it to be a total loss.

“The explosion was so big and the fire so bad that that it wrinkled the metal on the outside of the building in the back corner,” he said. “I don’t really know yet, but I would guess it’s pretty much a total loss.”

Employees at the McCall’s Restaurant in Goldsboro listened all morning for updates, even as they began to serve lunch.

“It’s wait and see, right now. We’ve had tons of calls from people offering their support, but it’s still business as usual,” said manager Alicia Wells. “Almost everybody there has worked here at some point. I talked to my best friend up there and she’s hanging in there.”

McCall and Westbrook, opened the Goldsboro location in 1989. The Clayton restaurant opened in 2004.

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.