UPDATE: 3 bodies found in plane crash wreckage in GSMNP; recover - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: 3 bodies found in plane crash wreckage in GSMNP; recovery planned Wednesday

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According to friends of the family, the three people on board a plane reported missing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park were David Starling, his 8-year-old son Hunter, and Kim Smith. FAMILY PHOTO According to friends of the family, the three people on board a plane reported missing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park were David Starling, his 8-year-old son Hunter, and Kim Smith. FAMILY PHOTO
The entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo by Michael Patrick/news Sentinel The entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo by Michael Patrick/news Sentinel
GATLINBURG (WBIR) -

UPDATE: A reconnaissance flight by the Tennessee Army National Guard located a missing single engine airplane within Great Smoky Mountains National Park around 4:45 p.m. Tuesday, park officials said. 

The plane was found on an unnamed ridge between Cole Creek and Bearpen Hollow Branch.

Park officials said paramedics were hoisted down from the Blackhawk helicopter to the crash site and confirmed that there were no survivors. The identities of the victims have not yet been confirmed.

The three occupants of the plane had earlier been identified as 41-year-old David Starling, his 8-year-old son Hunter Starling and 42-year-old Kim Smith, from the Jacksonville, Fla., area.

The National Transportation Safety Board will lead the investigation of the plane crash.

Recovery efforts of the three victims are expected to begin on Wednesday. 

Park officials said ground teams search the steep and heavily wooded area on foot Tuesday, but were unable to access some areas due to rough terrain.

Air traffic controllers lost touch with the Cessna 182 around 4 p.m. Monday. 

GSMNP spokesperson Jamie Sanders said officials were able to pinpoint a specific search area west-southwest of LeConte Lodge based on that last contact. 

The National Park Service deployed 10 people in three crews to hike off trail looking for the aircraft – but heavy rain and thick fog complicated those search efforts.

“It’s very dangerous, there’s a lot of fog and searchers as they pan out and patrol areas it’s very hard for them to remain in contact with each other and can become very dangerous in terms of coming up on cliffs," Sanders said. 

The Blackhawk helicopter was flying along the last known flight path of the plane late Tuesday afternoon when it spotted the wreckage. 

The National Park Service, the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, Civil Air Patrol, Federal Aviation Administration and Tennessee Emergency Management Agency all assisted in the search. 


PREVIOUS STORY: East Tennessee authorities are working to locate a missing plane that potentially went down in the ridges southwest of Mount LeConte Lodge in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

Park officials said Tuesday that the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center has determined a specific area where the plane is most likely located.  

Ground search teams were deployed on Tuesday to Bearpen Hollow Branch and areas southwest of the Bullhead Trail to search for signs of the plane. 

Air traffic controllers lost contact with the Cessna 182 about 4:30 p.m. Monday as it flew about 15 miles south-southeast of Gatlinburg-Pigeon Force Airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The FAA issued an alert after a family member notified the agency that the flight, from the Jacksonville, Florida area, didn't arrive as expected. 

According to family friends, David Starling, his 8-year-old son Hunter, and Kim Smith were on the flight and are all missing. 

Officials said the Civil Air Patrol conducted an aerial recon flight late Monday to try and locate the plane using its emergency locator transmitter, but couldn't find any transmissions from the aircraft. 

The park is coordinating with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency to do a reconnaissance flight over the search area, once weather allows. 

No evidence of the plane has been found within the national park.

The fact that controllers lost contact doesn't mean the plane crashed. It's possible the plane had a technical problem and continued on its way and made a safe landing.


PREVIOUS STORY: The Federal Aviation Administration issued an Alert Notice (ALNOT) Monday night advising local public safety agencies and the U. S. National Park Service that a Cessna 182 aircraft with three people on board was missing in an area about 15 miles south-southeast of Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport. 

Issuing the ALNOT triggers a search for a missing aircraft.

The flight originated at an airport in Jacksonville, FL area and was headed to Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport.  

The FAA issued the ALNOT when a concerned family member notified the agency that the flight didn't arrive as expected.


PREVIOUS STORY: East Tennessee authorities were alerted Monday afternoon about the possible disappearance of a single-engine aircraft over the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Park Rangers are working with the Civil Air Patrol to try to find the missing plane, according to park officials. In a release, the National Park Service said they received a report the airplane might have gone down in the central area of the park. 

Air traffic controllers lost contact with the Cessna 182 about 4:30 p.m. Monday as it flew about 15 miles south-southeast of Gatlinburg-Pigeon Force Airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Three people were aboard.

So far, there's no evidence that the plane went down, Sevier County dispatchers said. No evidence of the plane was found Monday within the national park.

The fact that controllers lost contact doesn't mean the plane crashed. It's possible the plane had a technical problem and continued on its way and made a safe landing.

The FAA said Monday night it would provide more information as it became available.

Read more at WBIR's website.

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