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Officials sort aircraft wreckage

TROY-Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board officials spent much of the morning of January 15 examining the wreckage of a Lear jet owned by the Dallas Cowboys football organization at the Troy Airport.

Amid cool and wet conditions, officials walked through the wreckage in a misty rain this morning taking photographs of different parts of the aircraft that were scattered over an approximately 100-foot area seeking clues about what caused the wreck.

Preliminary reports indicate that two deer, which apparently were on the runway when the jet landed at the airport yesterday around 11 a.m., may have contributed to the accident. Both animals were killed in the crash of the Lear Model 60.

A small passenger jet unofficial sources say is owned by the Dallas Cowboys organization crashed Sunday at the Troy airport around 11 a.m. leaving two men injured.

Both Eddie Collins, 50, of Jacksonville, Ark., and Max McVickers, 31, of Irving, Texas were transported to the University of Alabama at Birmingham hospital Sunday afternoon after they were stabilized at Troy's Edge Regional Medical Center. They were reported to be in "critical" condition. Collins was reportedly the pilot of the aircraft and McVickers was co-pilot.

Troy Police Department public information officer Benny Scarbrough said that the investigation has been turned over to the FAA and the NTSB.

"They are investigating the accident today," Scarbrough said. "There's seems to be a possibility that two deer may have contributed to the crash."

Unofficial sources reported that the aircraft was landing in Troy to pick up people affiliated with the Dallas Cowboys football organization, including Stephen Jones, son of Dallas Cowboys football organization owner Jerry Jones. Stephen Jones and two companions whose names have not been released were reportedly in Pike County for a hunt that was to benefit Pike Liberal Arts School.

According to Scarbrough, information released by the Dallas Cowboys football organization was that the aircraft was landing in Troy "on business."

Country music artist Hank Williams Jr., who owns land and a cabin in the area, was, the source said, one of the organizers of the hunt. Jones and other members of the Dallas Cowboys organization were in a Troy restaurant Saturday night for dinner with Williams, sources reported.

The jet was on approach to the main runway when the accident occurred, Scarbrough said.

Fire department units from throughout Pike County responded to the situation, including the fire crew from Sikorsky Support Services.

According to Matt and Eric Chance, two brothers who were working in the area with Atwell Cable Construction Company, the accident was a close call for the two men who were in the aircraft.

"We were working on the Conecuh River about a mile away when we saw black smoke boiling into the air," Matt said. "We hopped in the truck and drove over there to see what was happening."

The two beat most emergency personnel to the accident.

"We were just about the first ones there besides the people already at the airport," Eric said. "When we got there, a jet was on fire off the runway and the back end was in flames.

"The people at the scene were trying to get two men out of the front of the plane before the fire got there," he said. "They were spraying the fire with water and fire extinguishers and people were running everywhere."

According to a release issued by the Dallas Cowboys football organization, people at the scene, particularly two pilots who were at the airport when the accident occurred, saved the pilot and co-pilot thanks to a "heroic effort."

After workers pulled one man out of the front, Matt said, crews hooked a Chevrolet Tahoe up to chains and started tearing the cabin apart.

"Rescuers were in a hurry," he said. "They weren't waiting for the jaws of life to arrive."

Troy Police Department officials said that further investigation will be conducted in the coming days.

Editor's Note: Brian Blackley is the managing editor of the Troy Messenger, one of our sister papers.