UNICOI COUNTY, Tenn. (WISH/WJHL) – A Bloomington man and his daughter died after a plane flying to Indiana crashed during bad weather Friday night in eastern Tennessee, the FAA told WISH-TV sister station WJHL.
WJHL reports the aircraft crashed as it was flying from Knoxville, Tennessee to Bloomington, Indiana. The plane was a Lancair COL4, according to the Johnson City Press.
A public relations manager for Cook Medical in Bloomington confirmed vice president of engineering Bill Gibbons died in the crash. The company also said Gibbons’ daughter was involved in the crash.
Abbey Gibbons was a 10th grader at Bloomington High School South.
The Monroe County School Corporation issued the following statement following the tragedy:
The Monroe County Community School Corporation and the Bloomington High School South community are deeply saddened by the loss of beloved South student, Abbey Gibbons. and her father, Bill Gibbons. Our deepest sympathies go out to the family, friends, and all those affected by this tragedy. Our thoughts are with them as we remember and grieve the loss of a wonderful, caring, and exceptional student. Bloomington High School South Principal Mark Fletcher expressed, “We are all in shock and saddened, to say the least, with the news of the Gibbons’ tragic accident. Such fantastic people who were thought so highly of by all. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.”
Cook Medical also issued the following statement:
Our hearts are heavy today as we learned about the passing of our friend and coworker. Last night, Bill Gibbons, our vice president of engineering, and his daughter were involved in a plane crash near Knoxville, TN. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Gibbons family.
Multiple witnesses said they saw a bright flash of light and heard a crashing sound as a plane plunged from the sky during a storm that moved through the area around dusk.
Search crews combed Buffalo Mountain in Unicoi County on Saturday.
According to emergency radio communications, traffic controllers at Tri-Cities Regional Airport lost contact with the pilot of a single-engine plane at about 14,000 feet, the Associated Press reports. FAA spokesman Jim Peters told the Johnson City Press the Lancair COL4 aircraft was heading to Bloomington, Indiana, from Knoxville when it crashed around 7:15 Friday night.
A helicopter helped ground crews locate the wreckage. Search efforts were hampered by bad weather and poor visibility. Just before midnight, Unicoi County crews found the wreckage and secured the scene during the overnight hours.
Unicoi County EMA director Ed Herndon said the FAA told him flight controllers lost contact with a single engine four-seater plane just northwest of the town of Unicoi, near the Fire Tower.
WJHL’s Jordan Moore reports a new command post was established Saturday morning off Dry Creek Road. Investigators with the NTSB and FAA were on their way to the crash site. ETSU’s forensics investigation team came to investigate as well.