Pilot killed while taking off at Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport

SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – One person is dead after a crash at Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport.

Sevierville Police Department said the 1966 single engine Bonanza plane crashed around 11:43 a.m. Thursday, just 15 feet off the runway. By the time first responders arrived the plane was fully engulfed in flames.

Police said the pilot was found dead inside the aircraft. Police said the owner of the plane is located out of East Tennessee. His body will be taken to Knoxville Forensic Center for an autopsy.

Witnesses said they heard the plane take off, heard a pop and then it crashed.

“I came out to do yard work and saw a lot of black smoke,” said Billie Schnick.

The tree came to rest next to a treeline beside a backyard.

“A gentleman who works at the airport ran up and said, ‘Plane crash, we can’t find the pilot. We think he’s been ejected. Can you help us look?’” said Schnick. “They found the pilot still strapped in the pilot’s seat.”

The pilot was the only person on board. His name has not been released.

“Basically the owner and next of kin are being told right now. Basically what we do is try and memorialize the crime scene by video and photography and turn it over to the NTSB which we’ve already done at that time,” said Kevin Bush with the Sevierville Police Department.

The National Transportation Safety Board is taking over the investigation. The FAA and Knox County Forensics are also helping to investigate the crash.

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