UPDATE: The U.S. Forest Service has closed a portion of the Tellico Ranger District in Cherokee National Forest to public entry to allow the U.S. Navy to conduct their investigation of the October 1 crash of an aircraft from the Naval Air Station in Meridian, Mississippi.

There's currently no date for the affected area to re-open for normal use. Once the U./S. Navy concludes their investigation, the area will re-open, according to Terry McDonald of the USFS.

The temporary closure order applies to the following areas:

  • FS-RD 210 - Tellico River Road from Pheasant Field Picnic Area to Stateline Campground
  • FS-RD - Beaverdam Bald Road
  • FS-RD 61 - Whigg Meadow Road
  • FS-RD – 40841
  • FS-RD – 40921
  • FS-RD – 2417 – Big Cove Branch Road
  • Benton MacKaye Trail #2 from Sandy Gap to Mud Gap
  • Kirkland Creek Trail (#85)
  • Whigg Ridge Trail (#86)
  • Brookshire Creek Trail (#180)
  • The Donley Cabin (access to cabin only), Dam Creek Campground and Spivey Cove Campground (access to campgrounds only) will remain open.

For additional information about the closure area, contact the Tellico Ranger District at 423-254-8400.

PREVIOUS STORY: U.S. Navy officials say an instructor and a student pilot have died in a plane crash in southeastern Tennessee.

The T-45 Goshawk training jet crashed Sunday afternoon in Tellico Plains, about 45 miles (70 kilometers) southwest of Knoxville.

Lt. Liz Feaster said Monday that the names of the two who died are being withheld until 24 hours after family members are notified.

Monroe County Emergency Management Director David Chambers estimates that the crash in the Cherokee National Forest left a debris field at least a half-mile (1 kilometer) long.

The plane was based at Naval Air Station Meridian in Mississippi, part of one of five naval air training wings.

The Navy is investigating the cause of the crash.

 PREVIOUS STORY: A Navy helicopter has been brought in to help search for the two pilots who crashed in the Cherokee National Forest Sunday.

The military has made their base camp the Tellico Trout Hatchery on River Road. 

More than 30 people are involved in the search. The Monroe County EMA Director David Chambers says they may drop a search crew in using the helicopter, and are sending people in trucks to do a grid search of the area. 

Donna France heard what happened last night. She says the community's heart goes out to the search crews and the pilots.
She says she heard the engine stop and then "a big boom." 

The Green Cove Store and Motel is providing lunch for the search crews.

PREVIOUS STORY: TELLICO PLAINS, TN (AP) - Officials say a U.S. Navy plane crashed in the Cherokee National Forest in southeastern Tennessee.

Monroe County Emergency Management Director David Chambers tells the Knoxville News Sentinel the crash occurred Sunday afternoon in Tellico Plains, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) southwest of Knoxville.

Chambers says the field of debris is estimated to be at least a half-mile long.

The Navy confirms in a statement that a T-45C Goshawk aircraft was training in the area and had not returned to its Mississippi base by late Sunday. The statement says two pilots were on board and their status is unknown.

In April, the Navy grounded a fleet of T-45C Goshawks amid reports of problems with the cockpit oxygen systems.

Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, http://www.knoxnews.com

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