A reconnaissance flight by the Tennessee Army National Guard found that missing plane lost late Monday over the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and there were no survivors among those on three people on board.
Passengers on the plane included an 8-year-old boy. Positive identification of the bodies hasn’t yet been done, because the bodies remain unrecovered, officials said. A recovery effort began shortly before noon Wednesday.
“The plane is positioned on a very steep mountain side and could be at risk of sliding further down into the drainage,” said Chief Ranger, Steve Kloster. “These search and rescue personnel specialize in high angle rescues and have the best knowledge in making sure we conduct our operations in the safest manner possible.”
The plane was found in the park at 4:43 p.m. Tuesday, on an unnamed ridge between Cole Creek and Bearpen Hollow Branch. Paramedics on board were hoisted down to the crash site and confirmed that there were no survivors.
Ground teams searched the steep and heavily wooded area on foot Tuesday, but were unable to access some areas due to the rough terrain.
The plane was in route to the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport from Florida on Monday, Dec. 26, when it went missing over the park at approximately 4:01 pm. The three occupants were David Starling, 41, Kim Smith, 42, and Hunter Starling, 8, were from Bradford County, FL. The National Transportation Safety Board will be the lead in the investigation of the plane crash.