Pilot identified in fatal Cobb County plane crash

Image 1 of 18

Officials have identified the pilot killed when a 1976 Cessna Citation 500 jet went down in a Cobb County neighborhood.

Robert George Westlake, 78, of Atlanta, was the only victim of Friday's plane crash, according to the Cobb County Department of Public Safety.

In a statement to FOX 5 News, Westlake's son-in-law described what a great man he was.  "Great father, great grandfather, great pilot," said William Arnold. "He is dearly missed."

Westlake’s family told FOX 5’s Nathalie Pozo that he was on a business trip. Authorities said the pilot departed from Cincinnati at around 6 p.m. and radioed that he was having mechanical troubles moments before he crashed into the front yard of a Marietta home on Vistawood Lane.

Cobb County police said the couple who lived in the home were at church at the time. The homeowner, who did not want to give his name extended his condolences to the pilot's family.

"What we need to do is pray for the pilot and his family, this is replaceable," said the homeowner as he pointed to his home that authorities said is a total loss.

On Saturday, NTSB officials found a "cockpit" recorder at the crash site, which will help to determine what happened minutes before the crash.


Saturday morning, the neighborhood was littered with wreckage and debris, including the tail of the plane, which laid twisted in a neighbor's yard across the where the crash happened.

"And I heard a plane and it sounded like it was flying really, really low and about the time I started to look and see where it was, there was a boom and huge explosion, and a large fireball," said Duncan Elrod.

Elrod was nearby working on a roof. He rushed down to see if he could help and when it became apparent that he couldn't, he started filming the immediate aftermath of the crash.

WATCH: The immediate aftermath of the crash

Elrod said he thought the pilot might have been trying to land of the street, but the angle was just too sharp and the pilot could not make it.

Officials said the pilot died upon impact.  

WATCH: A first look on the ground at the scene

The plane made a distress call shortly before the crash.

WATCH: App users click here to watch the embedded video from the crash scene

Some of the residents in the neighborhood said they witnessed the plane as it came down while they were hanging out in their backyard.

"I look up and I see a plane, i don't hear it, i just see it first, and I see it do a spin," said Hunter Scoggins. "It went over its nose and we just all covered our ears because we thought it would be loud."

"I noticed they were looking up in the sky and I see a plane going straight down, it was going down in a corkscrew fashion, it was really slow, I couldn't hear an engine," said John Perry.

WATCH: Flames could be seen from several blocks away from the crash

A large black plume of smoke could be seen for miles the area of the crash.

WATCH: Smoke could be seen from miles around the crash

Neighbors told FOX 5 News the family which lives in the home were at church at the time of the crash. They were shocked when they returned back to their subdivision to discover their home completely on fire.

A Cessna Citation I aircraft is about 43 feet long with a 47 foot wingspan. The small-sized business jet can hold five passengers and two crew members.

WATCH: Special team coverage

NEXT ARTICLE: Women use each other to file false insurance claims