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Moore County mayor Sloan Stewart said when he woke up Wednesday morning and turned on the television, he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“I was in shock. I didn’t think about it happening so close to home,” he said.
Stewart was referring to the fiery plane crash early Wednesday morning of the large UPS jumbo cargo plane near Birmingham that took the lives of its two pilots – one of whom was from Lynchburg.
Although UPS has not officially released the names of the pilots killed, family members notified The Moore County News Wednesday that pilot Shanda Carney Fanning, 37, Stewart’s cousin, was killed when the plane crashed near a field while approaching Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport en route from Louisville.
Fanning was married to Bret Fanning, an employee at Jack Daniel Distillery.
Her brother-in-law, Wes Fanning, told the Associated Press that she had been flying since she was teenager.
She graduated from Shelbyville’s Central High School and later worked at the Shelbyville airport.
Fanning added that officials contacted her mother and UPS representatives were with the family Wednesday.
She was well known in the community and often spoke at local schools about her career.
“The biggest thing I always remember about Shanda is her absolute passion for flying. When most young people dreamed about their first car, she had an airplane,” said Bob Yasui, a family friend.
Others say Fanning was the type of person who never met a stranger; she was outgoing and friendly.
“I am really going to miss her. She used to come into the grocery store where I worked and she was always smiling. I’ve never seen her not smile. She’ll be missed,” said April Alexander.
Fanning leaves behind a husband, many family and friends to cherish her memory. Fanning and her husband resided on Tucker Hill Road.
The pilot and co-pilot were the only people aboard the plane, UPS spokesman Jeff Wafford said. The crash happened at about 6 a.m. Wednesday.
A UPS spokesman confirmed that the plane was a UPS A-300 Airbus, tail number N155UP, with two crew members aboard. The flight originated in Louisville and crashed upon its approach to the airport in east Birmingham.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the crew,” the spokesman said.
Bergen told The Associated Press that the plane crashed before dawn.
The plane crashed in an isolated field outside the airport’s perimeter fence and a white plume of smoke was seen rising from the site. Teams of emergency crews responded to the crash. The scene is about a half-mile north of Runway 18 where weather conditions were rainy with low clouds.
Sharon Wilson, who lives near the airport, said she was in bed before dawn when an airplane went over her house at what sounded like treetop level.
The engines were making an odd sound like sputtering, she said.
“It sounded like an airplane had given out of fuel. We thought it was trying to make it to the airport. But a few minutes later we heard a loud ‘boom,’” she said.
Previously, a UPS cargo plane crashed on Sept. 3, 2010, in the United Arab Emirates, just outside Dubai. Both pilots were killed. Authorities there blamed the crash on its load of between 80,000 to 90,000 lithium batteries, which are sensitive to temperature. Investigators found that a fire on board likely began in the cargo containing the batteries.