KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Joe Clayton, the co-founder of Clayton Automobiles and Clayton Homes, was killed in a helicopter crash in Knoxville on Monday, the Clayton family has confirmed.
“I am devastated and completely heartbroken by the loss of my wonderful brother, Joe,” Jim Clayton said. “Joe and I were as close as two brothers can be, and, as only siblings, we have supported each other since growing up together on a farm in West Tennessee and as business partners for decades. My thoughts and concerns are totally for Joe’s family right now.”
Joe and Jim Clayton, along with John McBride and Flynt Griffin, were aboard a helicopter when it crashed in to the Tennessee River Monday night around 8 p.m.
Jim Clayton, McBride and Flynt escaped the crash and were picked up by a pontoon boat while swimming to shore. They told first responders they did not require medical attention.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating the accident, and Jim Clayton said he is cooperating fully with the agencies and will not make any statements regarding the accident at this time.
“I am very grateful to the emergency personnel who responded so quickly and professionally and to the caring couple on a nearby boat who gave assistance,” Jim Clayton said.
Jim and Joe Clayton found Clayton Homes, a manufactured housing company, in 1966. The company grew into the largest producer and seller of manufactured housing in America before it was sold to Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway for $1.7 billion in 2003.