A student pilot who died in a fiery plane crash near Diamondhead has been identified as 69-year-old Premnathan "Prem" Naidoo, according to his family.
Everyone involved in the investigation of the Friday morning crash in woods just north of Interstate 10 believes the victim was Naidoo, Hancock County Coroner Jim Faulk said. But officials are still working on a positive ID via autopsy and dental records.
Before the crash, Prem Naidoo sent a text message to his instructor saying he planned to fly out, his son Terry Naidoo said.
The small plane took off about 6:30 a.m. to fly around the area, officials have said, and it crashed less than a mile from the airport.
It was on fire and entangled in a power line when first responders reached the wooded area.
Diamondhead Fire Chief Jerry Dubuisson has told the Sun Herald there was no radio traffic of a problem with the plane before it crashed.
The student pilot was flying alone, officials said. A student pilot may fly solo after passing tests given by a flight instructor, according to the Federal Aviation Administration website.
The Cessna 172 crashed shortly after it left the Diamondhead Airport, said Keith Holloway with the National Transportation Safety Board.
"At this point, no conclusions or determination has been made," he said, but the NTSB may release a preliminary report late next week.
The plane is owned by Diamondhead Aerolease LLC, the FAA Registry shows.
'He loved his work'
Naidoo was the owner of Asphalt & Wax Innovations in Pass Christian. The business works with contractors who need to manufacture asphalt for paving.
His father traveled around the world for business and was working toward getting his pilot's license, Terry Naidoo said.
Prem Naidoo was born in South Africa and moved to America in 2001 with his family, Terry Naidoo said. The family settled in Diamondhead and Prem Naidoo started the business.
Prem Naidoo, his wife and son became naturalized citizens in 2010. Another son's citizenship is pending.
"He was very excited to become an American citizen," Terry Naidoo said of his father. "We all were."
Prem Naidoo had several patents on asphalt compositions and had co-authored abstracts on processes such as rubber binders and mixes, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website.
Terry Naidoo described his father as a hard worker and go-getter who couldn't sit still.
"He loved his work," Terry Naidoo said. "He loved to stay busy so he had to have a hobby or work."
Terry and his brother both worked with their father.
"It's been tough, but we're fighting through it," Terry Naidoo said.
The crash remains under investigation.