A tragic story has come out of the Smoky Mountains in eastern Tennessee on Monday afternoon as a tourist helicopter has crashed and killed all five of the people on board.
WKYT is reporting that the first call came in around 4:15 p.m., but a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) states that the crash did end up first being reported around 3:30 p.m. on Monday afternoon. Spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said that the helicopter had been destroyed entirely by fire.
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The aircraft was a Bell 206 two-bladed sightseeing helicopter and it simply crashed into the woods. Pigeon Forge Fire Department and emergency personnel are also on the scene.
Local 8 Now says that Pigeon Forge Police Department Chief Jack Baldwin says there was not much left at all at the scene of the helicopter crash. A fire immediately began at the scene and started spreading up the side of the Mountain.
Six or seven other departments also responded to the scene. Due to a fire starting in the woods, the Tennessee Forestry Division was also present.
Baldwin said that it is the worst helicopter crash he has ever seen.
“There was not much left of the helicopter. There’s just a small piece of the tailwing and that’s about what’s left of the helicopter.”
Witnesses say that they heard explosions on Monday afternoon and others did actually see the helicopter crash into the trees. It is not known who the helicopter was registered to, but it did work for Smoky Mountain Helicopters, which takes tourists on sightseeing tours.
The group of people in the helicopter was on a sightseeing ride that is part of a popular tourist activity in the Smoky Mountains. These tours have been offered by the company since 1964 and go through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cherokee, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and surrounding areas.
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As of this writing, the names, ages, and information of those on board the helicopter have not been released. FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen has said that local authorities will end up releasing that information in time.
After that is done, the FAA will release the helicopter registration.
Chief Baldwin has said that his department and other local authorities are working the scene and trying to determine what they can at this time.
“We’ve got to get the fire under control, then we’ll stay with the crash, or what’s left of it until the FAA gets here.”
He went on to say that the fire departments are battling a fire that goes “all the way across” a nearby mountain. The terrain is making it very difficult to battle the blaze, and the wind is making things worse. The wind blowing through the flames “is creating a lot more for the fire to burn.”
The families of those killed in the helicopter crash are going to be notified as more information becomes known.
The tourist helicopter crash in the Smoky Mountains in eastern Tennessee on Monday afternoon is extremely tragic and is still under investigation. Police are working on figuring out why the sightseeing helicopter crash happened in the first place and caused the deaths of five people.
[Photo by Spencer Platt]