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Tuesday, October 03, 2023

Adults, child from Bradford County feared dead after plane crash

Following a plane crash into a Tennessee mountainside Monday, two adults and a child from Bradford County, Florida, are believed to be dead, pending the identification of the bodies found at the scene.

The single-engine airplane crashed at the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and a search began Wednesday after a reconnaissance flight by the Tennessee Army National Guard found the small plane, the National Park Service said in a press release.

The passengers recovered from the wreckage Wednesday night are believed to be David Starling, 41, Kim Smith, 42, and Hunter Starling, 8, from Bradford County, located about 30 minutes from Gainesville.

Jamie Sanders, an executive assistant from the National Park Service, said the bodies were recovered from the wreckage by the Tennessee Army National Guard at 5 p.m. Wednesday using a Blackhawk helicopter.

The small plane, a Cessna 182 fixed wing single-engine aircraft, was flying from Florida to Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport in Tennessee when it went missing at about 4:01 p.m. Monday, the National Park Service said.

A GPS device in the plane and the McGhee Tyson Airport tower radar determined the locations ground teams would search, but some areas were inaccessible due to the rough terrain.

A single Blackhawk helicopter spotted the wreckage on an unnamed ridge between Cole Creek and Bearpen Hollow Branch at 4:43 p.m. Tuesday, the National Park Service said.

Paramedics on the helicopter were lowered to the crash site and confirmed there were no survivors, the National Park Service said. The Tennessee Army National Guard began to extract the victims from the steep, heavily-wooded terrain.

“The plane is positioned on a very steep mountain side and could be at risk of sliding further down into the drainage,” said Great Smoky Mountain National Park Chief Ranger Steve Kloster in a press release Wednesday.

The National Transportation Safety Board has begun investigating the cause of the crash. Eric Weiss, a spokesperson in Washington, D.C., said the NTSB will release a preliminary report in five to 10 days.

“(NTSB) is in the process of the on-scene investigation,” Weiss said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates

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