Aviator Jim Maroney involved in Monroe County plane crash

Aviator Jim Maroney involved in Monroe County plane crash

Posted: Updated:
Monroe County officials are using helicopters in the search and recovery. Monroe County officials are using helicopters in the search and recovery.
Jim Maroney - Photo by Greg Rasberry, www.PhotosByRasberry.com Jim Maroney - Photo by Greg Rasberry, www.PhotosByRasberry.com

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

VONORE (WATE) - The Monroe County Sheriff's Office says they have located the plane that went down Sunday night in the Indian Boundary area within the Cherokee National Forest. The pilot, Jim "Fang" Maroney, was found dead. He was a retired military pilot an airline pilot and popular air show pilot.

Due to the rough terrain Rescuers were flown in to recover the remains. Monroe Co. Sheriff Bill Bivens says his thoughts are with the victim's family.

"Since I've been in office this is the second plane crash that we've had and we've worked and both of them and both of them turned out to be fatalities and that's sad and our hearts go out to that family," said Sheriff Bivens.

The wreckage is located on the side of the mountain that's not easily accessible by vehicle. Early Monday morning the Knox County Sheriffs Office sent two helicopters to assist in the search. Officers aboard spotted the wreckage. Rescuers have been lowered from the helicopters to the crash site and plan to remove the remains of the pilot using a specially designed basket.

The Blount County Sheriff's Office told 6 News early Monday morning that they had pinpointed the approximate location of the plane to the Indian Boundary Area in Monroe County. That's about two miles away from where authorities were searching in Blount County Sunday night, in an area adjacent to Calderwood Lake.

Blount County handed the search over to Monroe County officials. Knox County assisted.

Sgt. Tony Chamberlain with the Knox Co. Sheriff's office aviation unit was searching for the plane this morning when he picked up an emergency signal from the downed aircraft.

"Being an aviator myself seeing another aircraft having to search for it is always tough. He did a grid search from the sky and within 30 minutes located the wreckage.

"It's on the north side of the mountain and the south side of the ridge it's pretty steep," said Sgt. Chamberlain.

Sgt. Chamberlain says he's had to respond to several aircraft crashes in East Tennessee over his career.

"Unfortunately the mountains and the mountain ridges in East Tennessee are unforgiving if you're not used to them and we have several aircraft accidents a year around here," said Sgt. Chamberlain.

The FAA says the De Havilland DHC-1 aircraft left French Lick, Indiana around noon Sunday and was heading to Franklin County Airport in Canon, Georgia, but never made it. That's when the pilot's family contacted authorities.

Officials say the plane is an old vintage war plane like the ones flown at air shows. Only one person was on board.

The Blount County Sheriff's department conducted a land and air search in the area Sunday night. The land search was suspended around 12:15 a.m. Monday morning, and resumed at 7:30 a.m.

Monroe County dispatchers say the command center is set up at a powerhouse located on the Calderwood Dam.

The FAA says the flight was flying on Visual Flight Rules (VFR) and not receiving air traffic control service.

The NTSB is expected to be at the crash site over the next couple of day documenting the scene. Inspecting the flight and cock pit controls and the engine to figure out why the crash occurred.

"We confirm that the airplane is completely there. We look at the trajectory into the mountain side and the dynamics there," said NTSB investigator Ralph Hicks.

According to Hicks the wreckage may have to be airlifted from the crash site. The victim's remains have been sent to UT medical center for an autopsy.

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