• Raymond John Ackley, 43, a decorated Army Reservist from Charlotte lost his life
  • Surveillance footage showed black smoke rising as the plane went down
  • The interstate was shut down, leaving commuters stranded for hours

A pilot was killed after the plane he was flying crashed into a tractor-trailer in North Carolina. Officials said the twin-engine plane possibly faced a mechanical issue before slamming into the rear of the Freightliner 18–wheeler truck at around 5:10 p.m., Wednesday.

43-year-old Raymond John Ackley, a decorated Army Reservist from Charlotte, lost his life at the scene on Interstate 85 in Lexington. The truck driver, 41-year-old Barrin Lamont Davis from Concord, was rushed to the hospital with minor injuries, according to The Charlotte Observer.

A witness, Lee Doggette, was driving down the highway when he saw the plane piloted by Ackley going down.

“I just (saw) this airplane just coming down at a very aggressive angle (…) toward the ground and shortly after noticed that there was an explosion,” Doggette told WFMY News 2. “I literally saw the plane crash into the ground and it was like clear as day. It was very close.”

Investigators acquired surveillance footage from businesses in the area. Cameras captured black smoke rising as the plane went down. The fiery wreckage and charred pieces of the aircraft were seen on I-85 near the toppled tractor-trailer.

Damage from the downed plane led officials to shut the interstate for hours. Benjamin Nelson, one of the drivers who had to wait for the interstate to open up again, told NBC affiliate WRAL, "The median was on fire ... pieces of airplane were in the median. As I was coming through, the fire trucks had not come through yet and there were a lot of people at the side of the road trying to help.”

“A lot more people could’ve ended up getting hurt very easily,” Doggette said, as per WFMY News 2. “If (the pilot) would’ve just like turned onto the highway more those vehicles would’ve been going up the interstate but it seems like he kind of more clipped the truck on the entrance ramp and went down right before the actual highway 85.”

Major Matthew Boyle, spokesman for the North Carolina National Guard, said Ackley enlisted in the Michigan Army National Guard in April 2005 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 2007. He then joined the N.C. National Guard in January 2009, and about two years later, he was deployed to Kuwait, as per The Charlotte Observer.

After roughly four months in Kuwait, Ackley was deployed in Afghanistan and served from April 2012 to October 2012, Boyle added. Ackley rose to the rank of captain, commanded a Guard company in High Point, North Carolina, and also earned several medals and ribbons before leaving the Guard in 2014 to join the Army Reserve.

“He did well,” Boyle said, according to the outlet. “He served honorably. By all accounts, he was a good officer.”

The National Transportation Safety Board is currently investigating the crash.

Representative image Credit: Pixabay