The pilot of a small aircraft who died when he crashed into an Augusta synagogue late Wednesday night was a 19-year-old Cartersville, Ga., man described as "an outstanding young employee with a bright future."

Ron Baker was piloting a Piper Arrow single-engine airplane from Charleston to Cartersville when the plane crashed for undetermined reasons, his employer said in a statement Thursday.

Initial reports suggest Baker was trying to land in a parking lot after reporting an engine problem. He was the only person on board.

About a dozen people were in the Congregation Children of Israel's Walton Way Temple cooking a meal on the second night of Hanukkah. No one inside was injured when the plane struck the side of the building at 7 p.m. Initial reports said there did not appear to be significant structural damage.

Maj. Ken Autry with the Richmond County Sheriff's Office said all reports indicate the crash was an accident.

Baker was an employee of Phoenix Air, a charter company based in Cartersville, north of Atlanta. He was a licensed pilot and had worked for Phoenix Air for more than a year as a lineman at the company's operation at Cartersville- Bartow County Airport.

"Ron was an outstanding young employee with a bright future with Phoenix Air," said Dent M. Thompson, vice president for Phoenix Air Group. "All of Phoenix Air's employees are saddened by this loss."

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551 or skropf@