Three people died Saturday night after their plane crashed near Oxford.
Former trial lawyer Dickie Scruggs had been on the plane hours before crash, flying from a conference in Colorado to Mississippi.
Scruggs said he and his family got off the plane in Oxford.
Tommy Nix and wife, Merline Nix, of Belmont, Mississippi, and co-pilot Jarrod Holloway of Booneville, Mississippi, continued on to Alabama’s Marion County-Rankin Fite Airport, officials say.
They didn’t make it.
The plane crashed in a wooded area between New Albany and Blue Springs, according to a federal official.
Scruggs said he learned about the crash when he got a text from an unknown number: “If this is Dickie Scruggs, please call me immediately.”
Scruggs, a former trial attorney who was nationally known did a stint in federal prison, called the number.
The man on the other end was a pilot who lived nearby, Scruggs said. The plane lost communication east of Oxford, he told Scruggs, and he was trying to figure out what happened.
The pilot thought Scruggs was on the plane when it went silent.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Rick Breitenfeldt told The Associated Pressthat the twin-engine jet crashed about 10:30 p.m. Saturday.
Severe storms were sweeping through Mississippi at the time, but Breitenfeldt said it was not immediately clear if weather was a factor in the crash.
On Sunday morning, Scruggs visited the crash site with his son.
Local and federal authorities were at the scene, he said, and debris was scattered across a quarter to a half of a mile.
They were still searching for major parts of the plane, Scruggs said.
Scruggs knew the pilot, Tommy Nix, well.
He said they flew together nearly every week. Scruggs estimated he’s been on 50 to 100 flights with Nix — possibly more.
Nix and the co-pilot Holloway were professional pilots, Scruggs said, noting that he’d flown with Holloway probably a dozen times.
“Tommy (Nix) had taught (Holloway) how to fly when he was a young man,” Scruggs said.
Scruggs described them as “friendly, intelligent and professional.”
“They were really exceptional in their professionalism,” he said.
Scruggs also got to know the wife of Tommy Nix, Merline. He said the couple had been married for more than 50 years and had two sons.
He described Merline as “just a fine, elegant lady.”
Scruggs said he was scheduled to fly with Tommy Nix on Wednesday to Pascagoula for a speech.
Scruggs said he has had some close calls flying planes as a young Navy pilot. Decades ago, he lost his best friend in a plane crash.
Scruggs said they were about to leave the Navy and go back to college when the fatal crash occurred.
“It’s the same kind of feeling,” Scruggs said of Saturday’s crash. “You feel helpless. It’s a sobering feeling. You’re reminded of your own mortality.”
Scruggs emphasized that authorities have to conduct a thorough investigation to determine what caused the crash, but he doubts it was pilot error.
“I trust him with my family and have many times,” Scruggs said of Nix. “...Everybody’s scratching their head because it looks like the plane might have come apart in the air.”
The crash has left Scruggs wondering what if he were on the airplane for just a bit longer.
For now, though, Scruggs said he will pray and see what he can do for the families of the deceased.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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