Hinds County Coroner Sharon Grisham-Stewart confirmed three people died in the crash. She said dental records or DNA would be needed to confirm their identities.
The plane took off at 5:10 p.m. and shortly after, the pilot asked for permission to return to the airport, according to a news release issued by the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority. It never made it.
The plane had departed Hawkins Field Airport headed for Raymond, Miss., for an FAA safety conference. Latham said his plane had been parked in a hangar for a month and they wanted to take it out for a short flight before he flew it to Gulf Shores, Ala., for Thanksgiving. Latham said he had owned the plane for 2 1/2 years and described it as being in mint condition.
Latham said a Jackson police officer who was about a block away when the plane was coming down told him "it was spitting and sputtering and ... starving for fuel."
It hit trees on the way down, Latham said, adding, "I'm sure John was doing everything he possibly could to save the lives on board."
Vivian Payne, who lives about six blocks from the crash site, said she heard a loud bang that sounded different from an electrical transformer blowing.
"It shook the walls of my house," Payne said.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA were investigating.
Associated Press writer Holbrook Mohr contributed to this report.