The National Transportation Safety Board this week released its preliminary findings into last month’s plane crash that killed a well-known Northeast Georgia couple. Charly and Kelli Schell died when the single-engine, six-seater Cessna he was flying crashed near Buffalo, Wyoming on July 14.
Officials said the Schells were on a personal flight from Powell, Wyoming, to Buffalo at the time of the crash. They departed from Powell Municipal Airport around noon. The plane went down approximately thirty minutes into their flight in a remote area of the Bighorn National Forest.
After departing from Powell, Recorded Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast data showed the airplane progressed along a southeasterly course, ascending to 17,450 feet mean sea level (msl).
The report describes the last minutes of the flight:
“The airplane remained at that altitude for about 9 minutes, 17 seconds until it descended to 15,400 ft msl for about 12 seconds. The data showed that about 2 seconds later, the airplane ascended to 15,575 ft msl, which was followed by a descent to 14,500 ft msl for the last 4 seconds of recorded ADS-B data. The last recorded ADS-B target was located about .46 miles northwest of the accident site.”
The crash sparked a fire that was spotted by US Forest Rangers. Fire crews responding to the wildland fire found the plane wreckage. It was located in rugged mountainous terrain about 14 miles west-northwest of the Johnson County Airport in Buffalo. The wreckage was contained within an area about half the size of a football field and mostly consumed by fire. There are no known witnesses to the accident, NTSB says.
The wreckage will be relocated to a secure location for further examination.
Family friends say the couple had been traveling out west prior to the crash.
The Schells owned and operated Cateechee Golf Club and Conference Center in Hartwell. Kelli was the general manager. Charlie ran an investment firm. Both were graduates of North Georgia College in Dahlonega. He served as a pilot in the Army before becoming a business consultant.
Known for their philanthropy, the Schells started the Toughest Kids charity in Hartwell. The nonprofit helps children and families living with adverse circumstances. Donations may be made in their honor through the Toughest Kids website.