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Written by: Reed Williams 

LOUISA — Witnesses saw smoke coming from the airplane and noticed that it “didn’t sound right” just before it plunged to the ground, killing the pilot and igniting a house, an investigator said following the incident.

Investigators spent time sifting through the wreckage of the March 4 crash along U.S. 33 in the town of Louisa. The National Transportation Safety Board is in the early stages of a probe that could last from six months to a year, said Robert Gretz, a senior air safety investigator for the agency.

The Cessna T303 Crusader, loaded with 148 gallons of fuel, turned sideways and crashed vertically into the ground beside the house in the 100 block of Jefferson Highway, Gretz said. The crash occurred about 12:45 p.m.

Moments earlier, the plane had left Freeman Field airport a quarter-mile away after stopping to refuel. The homeowner was in the basement of the house when the plane struck, and he emerged unscathed.

Friends and a family member identified the pilot as James “Jay” Youngquist, a Reston resident in his 60s who had flown airplanes for four decades. His passengers had included former Gov. Timothy M. Kaine.

Youngquist left Manassas Regional Airport shortly before noon and stopped at Freeman Field on his way to Danville, where he planned to umpire a baseball game at Averett University.

“He was doing the two things he loved most, which is flying his airplane, and he was on his way to umpire a baseball game,“ his wife, Kathryn Youngquist, said during a brief phone interview.

During Kaine’s 2005 campaign for governor, Youngquist flew him to several campaign events.

“I am deeply saddened by the news of James Youngquist’s passing,“ said Kaine, who is chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

“Jay was a calm and caring person who loved to fly, and I know he will be truly missed by all who knew him. My thoughts and prayers are with his family as they manage through this terrible time.“

Kathryn Youngquist said her husband also is survived by his son from his first marriage, Steve Youngquist, and by Kathryn’s two sons, Tyler and Eric Waldron.