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TIFTON, Ga. (AP) -- Authorities investigating a deadly air crash say the small plane had descended from its cruising altitude before radar and radio contact was lost.

The National Transportation Safety Board says in its preliminary report that no distress calls or further communications were received from the pilot before the plane plunged into a field north of Tifton Oct. 18. The area is about 40 miles east of Albany.

A nearby resident told investigators the plane flew over his house very fast, but then fell straight down. He said clouds were low at the time.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the Piper PA-28 had departed Merritt Island, Fla., heading to an airport in La Grange. The lone occupant, 39-year-old Michael Elliott Leadlay of Orlando, Fla., was killed.

The NTSB's investigation is continuing.

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