No survivors in Great Smoky Mountains National Park plane crash


GATLINBURG (WATE) – Officials say they have located the wreckage of a plane that went missing over the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and there were no survivors.

The National Park Service says the plane was found Tuesday afternoon on an unnamed ridge between Cole Creek and Bearpen Hollow Branch. Paramedics were hoisted down to the scene and discovered no one on the plane had survived. The identities of the victims have not been confirmed. Recovery efforts are set to begin Wednesday.

A release from park officials says they received a report around 7:35 p.m. that a missing single-engine airplane might have gone down southwest of Mount LeConte Lodge. The Federal Aviation Administration issued an alert notice during the night saying that the plane was a Cessna 182 fixed wing single-engine aircraft.

There were three people on board. Family members tell WATE 6 On Your Side David Starling, 41; Kim Smith, 42; and Hunter Starling, 8, left on the plane at noon on Monday.

The FAA says the flight was heading to Gatlinburg–Pigeon Forge Airport from Jacksonville, Florida.

The FAA alert was issued after a family member notified the agency that the flight didn’t arrive. Information from McGhee Tyson Airport’s tower radar and the plane’s emergency locator transmitter was used to find the area. The Air Force Rescue Coordination Center says the plane was in contact with air traffic controllers at McGhee Tyson. There is no more information on the conversations.

Ground teams searched the area near Bearpen Hollow Branch and southwest of the Bullhead Trail on Tuesday. The wreckage was finally spotted from a single Blackhawk helicopter.

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