09/23/07 — Cleanup begins at McCall's in Clayton

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Cleanup begins at McCall's in Clayton

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on September 23, 2007 2:03 AM

CLAYTON -- Town resident Amanda Lowder's next wait shift at McCall's Bar-B-Que and Seafood restaurant was scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday.

Five hours before that shift started, the 22-year-old Johnston Community College student watched firefighters and police work to put out a fire caused by a plane that crashed into the U.S. 70-based restaurant around 10:10 a.m.

Johnston County Emergency Management Spokesman Pat LaCarter said one person, possibly the pilot, had been confirmed dead.

Miss Lowder wondered when her next shift would be.

"I guess we won't be working for a while," she said. "It's just crazy."

Her mother was in tears Friday morning because she couldn't get her daughter on the phone -- she thought there was a chance Miss Lowder had been inside.

Fortunately, her daughter was in class. She came to the scene "after a chain reaction" of phone calls from her co-workers.

McCall's co-owner Worth Westbrook said wait staff hadn't arrived yet -- and that it was lucky the plane crash hadn't occurred a few hours later.

Westbrook says a typical Thursday lunch rush could bring in as many as 300 patrons. The restaurant is approved to seat 375, the co-owner said.

Westbrook said his managers in the back initially thought an air-conditioning unit had blown because they heard a loud explosion at the front of the building.

The front entrance to McCall's was completely destroyed, and the plane was completely out of view inside the building.

The crash made numbers on the plane's tail unreadable, LaCarter said around noon on Friday.

"We don't know where it came from, how many people were on it -- all we know is it's inside that building right now," LaCarter said.

On Hobbs Street, a chunk of a propeller made by McCauley Propeller Systems laid next to a tree in front of 905 Hobbs St.

Clayton police came to the area after Hobbs Street neighbors Danny and Lee Underwood told them they found the propeller chunk.

Police quickly cordoned off the tree with emergency tape, keeping people away from the propeller chunk that showed just the brand name and the propeller's serial number, 931827.

Clayton officers on the scene said it seemed likely the propeller had hit 916 Hobbs St., a house directly behind the restaurant.

The same reddish-purple hydraulic fluid inside the propeller fragment had stained siding on the house.

A chunk of masonry block was also missing, and a rain gutter was moderately damaged. In the street directly in front of the propeller chunk, three fresh-looking parallel gashes had been cut into the asphalt, probably from the propeller.

"It's a good thing a car wasn't going through here," Danny Underwood said, noting how the propeller had hit a house on one side of the street, then ricocheted to the other side.