A decorated Army Reservist who lived in south Charlotte and once served in Kuwait and Afghanistan died when his twin-engine plane experienced a possible mechanical issue and crashed into a tractor-trailer on Interstate 85 in Lexington on Wednesday, officials said.
The pilot, 43-year-old Raymond John Ackley, died at the scene of the fiery wreck, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol said in a news release. The crash happened about 5:10 p.m. on southbound I-85 at mile marker 88, troopers said.
Ackley had taken off from Lexington Airport, just west of I-85, when his Beechcraft Baron aircraft smashed into the rear of a Freightliner 18-wheeler driven by 41-year-old Concord resident Barrin Lamont Davis, according to the Highway Patrol.
Davis’ truck overturned and traveled off the right side of the interstate, according to the Highway Patrol. He was taken to a hospital in Lexington with non-life threatening injuries, troopers said.
Southbound I-85 was closed as investigators retrieved evidence from the lanes, according to the release.
Debris from the plane and 18-wheeler damaged a truck driven by 31-year-old Kirk Connell Fowler of Rock Hill, S.C., who was uninjured, troopers said.
Troopers and Lexington police officers secured the scene until inspectors from the National Transportation Safety Board arrived to complete the investigation.
Ackley is survived by his wife, Ching Ackley, and three sons, ages 11 and 6, and 5 months, according to a GoFundMe page set up for his family.
Ackley’s family couldn’t be reached by the Observer. At Ackley’s home Thursday, his family declined comment to a WSOC reporter.
Guardsman, Army Reservist
Ackley enlisted in the Michigan Army National Guard in April 2005, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 2007, according to Major Matthew Boyle, spokesman for the North Carolina National Guard.
Ackley joined the N.C. National Guard in January 2009 and was deployed to Kuwait in December 2011, according to Boyle. He served in Kuwait until April 2012, when he headed straight to Afghanistan, Boyle said, serving there until October 2012.
He rose to the rank of captain, Boyle said, and commanded a Guard company in High Point.
Ackley earned eight medals and ribbons, Boyle said, including the Meritorious Service Medal.
He left the Guard in 2014 to join the Army Reserve, according to Boyle, and remained an active Reservist.
“He did well,” Boyle said. “He served honorably. By all accounts, he was a good officer.
‘Touched many lives’
Ackley also worked for Microsoft the past 13 years in engineering and customer-support roles, according to a GoFundMe page established to raise money for his family.
“Ray touched many lives at Microsoft in positive ways,” Adam DePue, the GoFundMe page organizer, wrote on the site. “He was also a very genuine person, who always cared for the people who worked with him and was a very sincere and dedicated team member at Microsoft.”
DePue is principal engineering manager at Microsoft, according to his LinkedIn page.
“He is a tremendous loss and we will miss him,” DePue said on the site. “Our hearts go out to Ray, his family and his friends in this time of need.”
In just an hour, the site raised $2,220 for the family.