August 19, 2014 10:43:29 AM
WIGGINS -- What began as a plane crash has turned into a drug investigation after Stone County officials found thousands in cash and numerous bottles of prescription pills in the wreckage.
Authorities arrested Jeff Franklin, a 43-year-old resident of Sherman, Texas, on a charge of possession of hydrocodone Friday.
Franklin was a passenger on a single-engine Cessna 602 that crashed near Wiggins Thursday evening.
The Sun-Herald reports Franklin and another passenger, 66-year-old Joe Paul Mentesara of Dallas, were treated for injuries at Forrest County General Hospital in Hattiesburg and released. Pilot Jeff Bramblett, a 62-year-old resident of Mesquite, Texas, was hospitalized with head, arm and other injuries.
The men told first responders they were heading to Mobile, Alabama, from Dallas, but investigators said the men gave information that raised suspicions.
"Based on the information from the pilot and the individuals that were in the plane, it didn't seem to be the normal routine for a normal flight," Capt. Jay Green of the Stone County-Wiggins Narcotics Task Force told WLOX-TV.
Narcotics officers said they brought a drug-sniffing dog to the crash site and found numerous bottles of prescription pills in luggage.
"There was pills in the plane, in the luggage," Green said. "There was a few capsules on the ground that had pills in it."
Authorities said Franklin does not have a prescription for hydrocodone and the pills were found in a container for an antacid, which is illegal. Narcotics investigators said they also found thousands of dollars in cash in the form of $100 bills. Officials said the investigation into who owns the pills continues. The plane is registered to JTB Enterprises of Mesquite, which Texas corporation records indicate is controlled by Bramblett.
Sheriff's officials said it appears the Cessna began having problems and Bramblett tried to land in a field, but the plane clipped a tree, tearing off its tail. The aircraft then nose-dived into a grassy area near Mississippi 29 on the outskirts of Wiggins.
Federal Aviation Agency spokeswoman Katherine Bergen said Friday that the agency is investigating the crash.
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