WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. Hours after performing for thousands of South Carolina college students, former Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker and celebrity disc jockey DJ AM were critically injured in a fiery Learjet crash that killed four people, authorities said Saturday.
Officials said the plane carrying six people was departing shortly before midnight Friday when air traffic controllers reporting seeing sparks. The plane hurtled off the end of a runway and crashed through antennas and a fence. It came to rest a quarter-mile away on an embankment across a five-lane highway and was engulfed in flames, said Debbie Hersman, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board.
Barker and DJ AM, whose real name is Adam Goldstein, were in critical but stable condition at a burn center in Augusta, Ga., on Saturday afternoon, hospital spokeswoman Beth Frits said. Augusta is about 75 miles southwest of Columbia.
Two other passengers Chris Baker, 29, of Studio City, Calif., and Charles Still, 25, of Los Angeles died, as did pilot Sarah Lemmon, 31, of Anaheim Hills, Calif., and co-pilot James Bland, 52, of Carlsbad, Calif., according to the county coroner. Baker was an assistant to Barker and Still was a security guard for the musician.
The plane was headed for Van Nuys, Calif. It is owned by Global Exec Aviation, a California-based charter company, and was certified to operate last year, Hersman said. The company expressed its condolences in a statement and said it was working with investigators to determine the cause of the crash.
At the crash site Saturday, the air was still heavy with the odor of jet fuel. A trail of black soot led off a runway. The nose of the aircraft was gone and the roof was missing from two-thirds of the charred plane.
Hersman said officials recovered the cockpit voice recorder Saturday but had yet to analyze it or determine whether the recording was in good condition. She said the weather was clear when the plane took off, but said no factors had been ruled out.
"We're working as fast as we can to document all the evidence," Hersman said. "We have not yet found anything but we are looking at everything."
Barker and Goldstein had performed together under the name TRVSDJ-AM at a free concert in Columbia on Friday night. Event sponsor T-Mobile said their hourlong set ended at about 7:15 p.m.
The show, which included performances by former Jane's Addiction singer Perry Farrell and singer Gavin DeGraw, drew 10,000 people into the streets of Five Points, the neighborhood near the University of South Carolina, Coble said.
Peter Kastis, Farrell's manager, said he and Farrell didn't find out about the crash until they arrived at the airport Saturday morning to find it closed.
"I just hugged them hello less than 24 hours ago. I wish I could hug them now," Kastis said.
Columbia's airport stayed closed Saturday and spokeswoman Lynne Douglas said she was unsure when it would reopen.
A longtime friend of Bland, the co-pilot, said he flew anti-smuggling missions 20 years for the U.S. Customs Service and also flew missions for the Santa Ana Police Department and U.S. Border Patrol.
"He was such an experienced pilot, it had to be something beyond their control," said Tim Ferrill, a Huntington Beach, Calif., pilot. "He was an absolutely meticulous pilot, very thorough and not a risk-taker at all."
Bland was survived by his wife and teenage daughter, Ferrill said.
On Saturday afternoon, several people gathered where the musicians performed the night before. Some of Barker's fans said they felt drawn to the spot.
"I hope to God things turn out OK and he gets better. He's a real good guy," said Dustin Haycraft, 23, of Columbia, who sports two tattoos modeled on T-shirts the musician designed.
Barker, 32, was one of the more colorful members of the multiplatinum-selling punk rock band Blink-182, whose biggest album was 1999's CD "Enema of the State" and sold more than 5 million copies in the United States alone.
After Blink-182 disbanded in 2005, Barker went on to form the rock band (+44) pronounced "plus forty-four." He also starred in the MTV reality series "Meet the Barkers" with his then-wife, former Miss USA Shanna Moakler. The show documented the former couple's lavish wedding and private life. Their later split, reconciliation and subsequent breakup made them tabloid favorites.
Goldstein, 35, is a popular DJ for hire who at one time was engaged to Nicole Richie.
He has spun a mix of hip-hop and dance beats for the hottest nightclubs and had a string of dates set up for the next few weeks. He reached the peak of his celebrity perhaps during his highly publicized romance with Richie a few years ago.
DJ AM also dated singer/actress Mandy Moore, and while he became a gossip favorite for his romances, he drew respect from music aficionados for his DJ skills.
Barker and Goldstein performed as part of the house band at the MTV Video Music Awards earlier this month.