Former Raleigh police officer among three killed in Franklin County plane crash
A former Raleigh police officer and his girlfriend were among three people killed in the crash of a small plane in Franklin County on Friday night.
Brian Sjostedt had just taken off from Triangle North Executive Airport with his girlfriend, Jessica Kenny, and her friend Allison Forsythe when the single-engine plane crashed into a creek that leads into Clifton Pond south of Louisburg at about 7:20 p.m. Friday. The single-engine Cessna C-182 was headed to Hilton Head, S.C., and went down less than two miles south of the airport.
Sjostedt was a Raleigh police officer from 1998 to 2005, according to the department.
ABC11 WTVD, a news partner of The News & Observer, reported that Forsythe was a student at East Carolina University and a friend of Kenny’s. Both were 26.
Zack T. Medford, a close friend of Sjostedt’s, said he and Kenny had been dating for about a year, and that Sjostedt “was just smitten.” The pair regularly flew to Hilton Head, where Sjostedt kept a boat. The couple made the trip so often that when Medford saw news of the crash he immediately suspected his friends were on the plane.
“He was working to set down some roots there,” he said.
Medford described Sjostedt as one of the most generous people he had ever met, who regularly flew his friends across the country for everything from birthday celebrations to funerals. He said Sjostedt loved being around people and “never met a stranger.”
Sjostedt founded Vetted International Ltd., a Raleigh company that offers crisis management and response services to clients all over the world. Medford said Sjostedt was theoretically retired but still heavily involved in the company’s day-to-day operations.
“He was a hero to me, someone I respected and will miss terribly,” Medford said.
Sjostedt learned to fly from Paul Hesse at the Henderson-Oxford Airport in Granville County and passed his private pilot’s check in 2013. Hesse, who has been teaching flight school for nearly 30 years, said Sjostedt was a good pilot and an experienced aircraft owner.
“I don’t know how many hours they’ll find in his log book, but I would speculate they’ll find close to 1,000,” Hesse said in an interview Sunday.
Hesse noted that weather at the time of the crash Friday evening was terrible. He said in those rainy conditions, airlines would not have allowed their pilots to fly without a co-pilot, but Sjostedt would have been allowed to fly as a single pilot.
“I don’t know why anyone would fly single-engine, single-pilot in the weather we had Friday,” Hesse said.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the cause of the crash.
“We are in the very early stage, the fact phase, of the investigation,” NTSB spokesperson Terry Williams said in an email Sunday morning.