COOKE COUNTY, Texas (KTEN) — The pilot was killed and a passenger was injured when a small plane crashed Tuesday evening near Gainesville Municipal Airport.

Laurel Neu was at home when she heard a strange sound coming from the sky.

"We heard the plane was making an unusual noise about two miles northeast of here," she said. "I've never heard a noise like that.

What happened next literally rattled parts of her house.

"My eight-year-old granddaughter ran and told me, 'Grandma, a plane has just crashed in your field!' That's what that strange noise was that I heard seconds earlier," Neu said.

A small plane crashed near Gainesville, Texas, on June 11, 2024.

The single-engine Cessna 172R Skyhawk went down along Cooke County Road 404, less than one mile northwest of the airport.

"I don't even remember getting up; I was calling 911, and then looking for keys to unlock the gates so that all of the responders could get over there quickly," Neu said. "Everybody from the Lindsay Fire Department was here, and I heard Gainesville responders were here, ambulance, sheriff's department... I was very impressed how fast all of the responders got here."

The Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed that the Bailey Maldonado — the plane's 27-year-old pilot from Granbury, Texas — died in the crash. 

James Watts, 26, from Springfield, Oregon, was airlifted to a hospital in Denton for treatment of serious injuries.

A flight record provided by Flightradar24 showed the plane had taken off from Denton Enterprise Airport at 7:48 p.m. Tuesday. The Federal Aviation Administration said the crash happened around 8:40 p.m.

The pilot managed to avoid a number of obstacles on the way down.

"There are power lines everywhere... there's trees, there's buildings, there's homes... it's a miracle," Neu said.

According to federal records, the Cessna was first registered in 2006 and is currently owned by Denton, Texas-based Wings Over Texas Holdings.

The aircraft's tail bears the insignia of US Aviation Academy, a flight training school with a facility in Denton.

The Federal Aviation Agency and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the cause of the crash.

A small plane crashed less than a mile from the runway at Gainesville Municipal Airport on June 11, 2024.


Investigators examine the wreckage at a fatal plane crash near Gainesville, Texas, on June 12, 2024.