Cell phone call credited with finding hard-to-spot Holston Mtn.

Cell phone call credited with finding hard-to-spot Holston Mtn. plane crash

View of Holston Mountain approaching crash site. View of Holston Mountain approaching crash site.
ELIZABETHTON, TN (WJHL) -

Flying high above Holston Mountain and looking down at the forest Wednesday morning, you wouldn't’t necessarily know a plane crashed there Tuesday evening.

But it is there, buried between the trees.

Even at the time of the crash it was difficult to see exactly where the Cessna 172 with three people on board fell to the earth. In fact, Corporate Director of Wings Air Rescue Dwain Rowe said it was hard to imagine spotting that four-seater plane in the dense forest that covers the mountain as the sun was setting Tuesday.

But thanks to a quick cell phone call after the crash from one of the plane’s occupants, Wings pilot Steve Lewis was hovering above the exact location within 10 minutes after taking off from Johnson City Medical Center.

“We had a fairly good idea going out exactly where they were, so we didn’t waste a lot of time doing search patterns to find them,” Rowe said Tuesday after WJHL journalists Lauren Haviland and Phillip Murrell were flown over the crash site by Wings. The video Murrell captured from the Wings helicopter shows the white of the plane’s fuselage barely visible amidst the trees; the wreck is more discernible when the camera is zoomed.

The Cessna went down shortly after takeoff from the Elizabethton Municipal Airport Tuesday, just after 7 p.m. Read more details on the crash here.

As the rescue effort began and a plan was formed as to how to reach the wreck through the mountainous terrain, the Wings crew hovered above the victims, guiding rescuers to the exact spot.

Keith Treadway, with Wings, said one of the crash victims had a flashlight that he turned on and Lewis used night-vision goggles to see that beam of light as the sun set, allowing him to give rescuers on the ground heading and distance to the wreckage.

The three crash victims were taken off the mountain early Wednesday morning.

“Then once we had them (rescuers) at the scene we could come back (to the command center) and wait until they’re ready for us to pick them up,” Rowe said.

Wings flew two of the people on board the Cessna to a local hospital.

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