On Friday, a Texas Department of Public Safety source told ABC13 that the victims of the aircraft disaster were identified as 23-year-old Solomon Babalola and 20-year-old Apesin Oluwafunmilayo. Records show Babalola had a Katy address.
According to DPS, Babalola is believed to be the person who was thrown from the airplane in the apparent crash, while Oluwafunmilayo was still in the aircraft's fuselage. Troopers believe both had died on impact.
ORIGINAL STORY: Pearland-bound flight went off the radar Wednesday in west Harris County, authorities say
Emergency crews, including Harris County sheriff's deputies, were called upon Thursday to search for the Pearland-bound Piper PA-28 Cherokee, which troopers said had disappeared from radar shortly after its Wednesday evening takeoff from the West Houston Airport.
Sgt. Richard Standifer of DPS said airport personnel actually began looking for the airplane the night of the departure, noting visibility issues due to thick fog at the time.
It wasn't until 1 p.m. Thursday that ground crews saw what appeared to be debris in a field south of the I-10 Katy Freeway near the Barker Reservoir. The discovery was later confirmed, by helicopter, to be the aircraft.
Standifer added that mayday wasn't called out after the departure, and that crews began the search shortly after losing contact.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating what caused the plane to go down.
The plane and the pilot
Standifer noted in a Thursday news briefing that the plane is registered from Rogers, Arkansas. But a search of an FAA database showed the fixed-wing, single-engine aircraft has a registered owner out of Cincinnati, Ohio.
A search of the plane's tail number on online flight tracker FlightAware showed the aircraft hadn't been used for very long. The first logged flight was 27 minutes, for a departure from and return to Butler County Regional Airport in western Ohio.
Eyewitness News has also found an FAA student pilot registration listing issued in April 2021 under Babalola's name, with a limit stating, "Carrying passengers is prohibited."