UPDATE: Student pilot who fell from plane Friday identified - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Student pilot who fell from plane Friday identified

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UPDATE: The Bradley County Sheriff's Office has released the name of the student pilot who fell from the plane Friday in Bradley County.

The student pilot, identified as 77-year-old David Richardson of Chattanooga, fell nearly 2,500 feet from a plane he was training in with another pilot.

BRADLEY CO., TN (WRCB) - Search crews recovered the body of a missing co-pilot who fell around 2,500 feet to his death from a small plane Friday.

Bradley County officials confirm the body they found Saturday, is that of the fallen pilot.

Channel 3 spoke to one of his friends off camera, who says the man is middle-aged and was very involved in church.

He'd just recently purchased the single engine plane. He was taking lessons from a more-experienced pilot when part of the plane fell off.

Dozens of search crews worked late into the night by foot and air, then resumed when daylight returned.

"The family was out this morning searching with us as well," Bradley County Fire and Rescue Chief Troy Spence said.

They scoured areas around the last cell phone ping, near Weatherly Switch Road. The first clue they found was a pre-flight checklist torn in two lying in a field. Then, they found another clue they were getting closer.

"Three hundred yards from here we actually found a hat that indicated it had been on the aircraft. That lead us to believe we were definitely in the right area and we were going to have success today," Spence said.

Around 11:30 a.m. Saturday, an air crew spotted the man down below.

"He was on the ground. Back across Weatherly Switch right here and Lead Mine Valley, both of those roads is where we found the victim," Spence said.

Crews used ATV's to pull the man's body from the woods that were just about 150 yards off Lead Mine Valley Road.

"It's one of those things, we always want to be able to give these people back their loved ones," Spence said.

The Bradley County Sheriff's Office says it's now up to the National Transportation Safety Board investigate what caused him to fall mid-flight. Right now, this is all they know.

"The canopy malfunctioned and came off the aircraft and as a result, one of the two pilots aboard was ejected from the aircraft," Bradley County Sheriff's Office Spokesperson Bob Gault said.

The Bradley County Sheriff's Office says they'll likely release the victim's identity Monday. They say the NTSB may start their investigation this weekend or possibly wait until Monday.
Again, the head pilot in the plane was able to safely land and immediately called 911 to report that his friend had fallen from the malfunctioned plane.

We'll continue to bring you any updates as they're released.

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