Instructor dies in plane crash

An English teaching instructor, Debbie O’Neal, was involved in a fatal plane crash Sunday afternoon. The crash also involved her husband Dennis O’Neal, a Washington-based optometrist, and their dog.

The victims left North Wilkesboro on Sunday and crashed 20 minutes later due to engine power loss. According to the Winston-Salem Journal, the couple reported the engine loss shortly before crashing four miles away from the Smith Reynolds Airport, where they were headed. The wreckage covers about 100 yards and the National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating the incident and releasing a full report in 12-18 months.

According to her biography on the university’s website, Debbie began working in the English department in 2004 after a five-year stint in private business. She attended Penn State prior to receiving her masters at the University of Pennsylvania. She dedicated her life to improving the English as a Second Language certification.

O’Neal was the recipient of the Carolina TESOL Distinguished Service Award in 2011 for her work as a board member and teacher educator, as well as her scholarly contributions to a variety of publications. She also served as the interim director of the East Carolina University Language Academy in its inaugural year.

She was amidst teaching several composition classes and one grammar class. She was also working with the School of Education to integrate English as a Second Language teaching into the existing teaching curriculum.

The couple left behind three children.

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