Burlington, NC -- Residents in a Burlington community are still in shock after a Pilatus single-engine plane crashed into their neighborhood.
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But before investigators reveal why the plane crashed, killing the pilot, the residents have chosen to remember the pilot as a hero.
Pilot David Gamble was the only person on the plane when it crashed on a softball field on the east end of North Park Community Center.
The park is in a highly populated area.
People who live in the neighborhood strongly believe pilot Gamble saved their lives.
"It would have been a disaster, it could have been a disaster if it had hit here into the neighborhood," said Clara Moore, who runs an adult care facility across from the crash site.
Another neighbor, Blondie Byrd, agreed.
"When I saw the destruction, that's when it hit me. Oh, my god! Had it hit my house, I couldn't have gotten out," Byrd said.
Hours after the crash,several community members stood in shock, staring at the wreckage.
Moore told News 2, she's been a nervous wreck since about 6 a.m. when she saw the plane struggling to stay in the air.
"I went down in the yard and actually saw the plane and I was like, 'oh, my god!' there was actually fire on that thing. And so, it just kept going round and round, Moore paused, choked with tears. Round and round and it scared me."
Moore can see the wreckage from her front steps; and just down from her home/business, a crowded apartment complex. She says she shudders to think what could have happened had Gamble's plane crashed a few hundred feet past where it did.
The debris path shows it could have hit the complex.
"We are really blessed that it didn't hit down in here," she said. "It looked like he was trying his best to get that plane under control. Because it was just like zoom, zoom, zoom. And the noise, it was just over this house like something was going to land...and it just dropped! And this entire explosion; I ran back into the house."
Several other neighbors expressed a similar sentiment. They say it's unfortunate Gamble died in the crash but they are all grateful for what they believe the pilot did to protect their lives.
"He's a hero, in my book. In my book, he's a compassionate hero because maybe he could have saved his own life if he had landed somewhere else," Byrd said.
According to a Linkedin profile, Gamble graduated from the Guilford Technical Community College Aviation Center in 2008.
He joined Labcorp as a pilot that same year. His primary job was flying medical specimen around the country to the company's other offices.
Police say on this day, he was on his way to deliver intra-office mail to a facility in New Jersey.
They say Labcorp has hired an environmental crew to clean up the estimated 400 gallon of fuel the crashed leaked on to the softball field.
The NTSB and FAA are investigating the cause of the crash.
WFMY News 2