Texas pilot of small plane dies in crash as he tries to land

Police lights. (KPRC/File)

ZAVALLA, Texas – A 40-year-old pilot died when his small plane crashed as he tried to land on a private runway in East Texas early Saturday morning, officials said.

The Texas Department of Public Safety said James Duke VanLue, of Tomball, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Officials said it appears the crash happened at about 2 a.m. but the scene wasn't located till about 12:30 p.m.

Capt. Alton Lenderman with the Angelina County sheriff's office tells KLTV that the single-engine plane crashed north of Zavalla.

DPS said the Piper Aircraft was flying from Tomball to Zavalla, about 130 miles to the northeast. The pilot clipped the top of some trees and crashed just north of the runway.

DPS says the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have been notified and will investigate.