JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A high-profile former lawyer says he was a passenger on a twin-engine jet hours before it crashed in northern Mississippi, killing three people.
Richard "Dickie" Scruggs told the Clarion Ledger in a story published Monday that he and his family flew aboard the plane Saturday from Colorado back to their home in Oxford, Mississippi. Pilot Tommy Nix, his wife Merline Nix and co-pilot Jarrod Holloway left Oxford moments later to fly to Alabama's Marion County-Rankin Fite Airport.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Rick Breitenfeldt said the plane, a Rockwell Sabreliner 65, departed the University Oxford Airport at about 3 p.m. Saturday. Union County Sheriff Jimmy Edwards said his office received a call shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday that the plane had disappeared from radar.
Edwards said investigators found the wreckage at about 9:30 p.m. Saturday between New Albany and Blue Springs. He said all three aboard were killed.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.
Scruggs was a Navy pilot decades ago. He gained national prominence and became a multimillionaire with lawsuits against makers of asbestos and tobacco products in the 1990s. He spent time in federal prison and lost his law license after pleading guilty in 2008 in a Mississippi judicial bribery scheme.
Since his release from prison, Scruggs has described himself publicly as a "disbarred and disgraced trial lawyer" and has paid education expenses for adults who left high school without earning a diploma.
Scruggs told the newspaper that he learned about the plane crash Saturday when he got a text from an unknown number: "If this is Dickie Scruggs, please call me immediately."
Scruggs said he 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.
Scruggs said Nix, who lived in Belmont, Mississippi, and Holloway, who lived in Booneville, Mississippi, were professional pilots. He said he had been on at least 50 to 100 flights with Nix as pilot and about a dozen flights with Holloway as pilot. He said Nix had taught Holloway to fly.
"They were really exceptional in their professionalism," Scruggs said.