GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) - 

The coroner said two people died after a plane crash at the Greenville Downtown Airport Thursday afternoon and officials asked people to avoid the area due to a Hazmat situation.

Witnesses nearby said the plane was broken in half at the edge of Airport Road and the white fence surrounding the airport.

A spokesman for the police department said the jet went off the runway around 1:39 p.m.

Airport Director Joe Frasher said the plane landed on the runway and then, for unknown reasons, could not stop. The plane continued off the runway, across a grassy area, down an embankment, and crashed at the edge of the road.

Four people, two pilots and two passengers, were on board the plane at the time of the crash, Frasher said.

Deputy Coroner Jeff Fowler confirmed just after 3 p.m. that two people had died.

Three people were transported from the scene to the Greenville Health System but a fourth was trapped in the jet, officials said.

A spokesman for the Greenville Fire Department said the pilot and co-pilot died. The survivors were passengers, a married couple, and are in critical condition.

The pilot was pronounced dead at the scene. The co-pilot died at the hospital, Coroner Parks Evans said. All of the victims had to be extricated from the plane. 

The coroner identified the pilot as John Christian Caswell, 49, of Port Saint Lucie, FL.

The co-pilot was identified as Stephen George Fox, 66, of Indian Rocks, Florida. 

Frasher said one of the pilots was unconscious against the throttle when first responders got on scene. He said the plane never caught fire but the engine was sending dirt and dust flying into the air in huge plumes. Two aircraft mechanics were able to help shut down the engine when firefighters made entry into the cabin.

In Frasher's more than three decades working at the airport, he said Thursday's crash was the first fatality was the first he'd seen in his career.

Greenville police Chief Ken Miller asked people to avoid Airport Road because the jet leaked fuel, leading to a Hazmat situation.

Hazmat crews were working to contain and absorb the fuel, which was flowing downstream toward Haywood Road, Miller said.

Miller said federal investigators would likely be on scene until Sunday at the earliest.

The jet that crashed, a Dassault-Breguet Falcon 50, was registered out of Delaware to Global Aircraft Acquisitions. It was built in 1982 and could fly 10 passengers.

The NTSB said the jet was based out of Florida. It took off from Tampa and Greenville was its intended destination.

NTSB investigators brought in a crane help lift the fuselage to allow access to the cockpit voice recorder, which officials said is housed "in the belly" of the jet.

Investigators moved the wreckage back onto the airport property and continue "looking at all systems from front to back" to determine what caused the crash.

The NTSB is also collecting surveillance footage from nearby businesses that may have captured some of the jet's movements after leaving the runway.

The on-scene investigation may take up to four more days and several weeks before a preliminary report is written.

Airport Road has since re-opened.

FOX Carolina spoke with Corey Crockett, a friend of Caswells' who is still coping with this tragic loss.

"I literally had to read it twice then I went to his Facebook and looked at his picture," he said, "then sat in my chair and cried." 

Crockett remembers Caswell fondly, saying his friend and co-worker was someone he could always count on.

"Great, great phenomenal pilot. I literally trusted him with my life," said Crockett.

Stay with FOX Carolina for updates when they become available.

Copyright 2018 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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