Missing Aircraft Found in the Smokies

Friday, December 30, 2016

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Officials announced the completion of the recovery efforts for the victims associated with the Cessna 182 that went down in Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Monday, December 26th. At approximately 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday the park’s technical rescue team along with a Tennessee Army National Guard helicopter extricated the three victims from the wreckage.

The plane was in route to the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport from Florida on Monday when it went missing over the park at approximately 4:01 pm. The three occupants of the plane, David Starling, 41, Kim Smith, 42, and Hunter Starling, 8, were from Bradford County, FL. 

Ground teams searched the steep and heavily wooded area on foot Tuesday, but were unable to access some areas due to rough terrain. A reconnaissance flight by the Tennessee Army National Guard located the missing single engine airplane within Great Smoky Mountains National Park at approximately 4:43 pm on Tuesday, December 27th. The plane was found in steep terrain 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.

The National Park Service worked closely with the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, Civil Air Patrol, Federal Aviation Administration, and Tennessee Emergency Management Agency in this search effort. The National Transportation Safety Board will take the lead in the investigation of the plane crash.


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