Gatlinburg, TN Air Force Jet Crash, Jan 1984
AIR FORCE INVESTIGATES JET CRASH; TWO LIKELY KILLED.
Gatlinburg, Tenn. (AP) - Air Force officials say they don't know what caused an RF-4C Phantom jet to crash, likely killing two officers aboard, in the snow-capped Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
A ground search team found the jet's wreckage at 2 p.m. EST Thursday - about 19 hours after witnesses saw it crash and explode while on its way back to Shaw Air Force Base near Sumter, S.C., from a photo reconnaissance training mission.
Soon afterward, the search team radioed back that one body had been recovered, but Air Force spokesmen said they couldn't confirm the report.
The base later issued a statement that said: "On-scene Air Force investigators have determined that in all probability, neither of the two crew members survived."
A base spokesman identified the crewmen as Capt. DAVID F. GREGGS, 28, of Montgomery, Ala., who was the pilot, and Capt. SCOTT A. MILLER, 32, of Irving, Texas, a navigator-weapons system officer.
A five-man Air Force security team was flown into the mountains by helicopter to camp overnight at the crash site.
Col. Jerry Daniel, vice commander of the 363rd Tactical Fighter Wing at Shaw and leader of the recovery team, said a special board of investigators was being brought in to determine the cause of the crash.
The jet slammed into the side of Inadu Knob on the Appalachian Trail along the Tennessee-North Carolina line, about 20 miles east of Gatlinburg, park Ranger Larry Barnett said.
Ranger Mike Sharp, leading a five-member Civil Air Patrol search team, stumbled onto the wreckage.
"Literally, the ranger said he found it when he slipped on a piece of the metal," Barnett said.
Searchers said the plane was in small pieces, and the snow-covered wreckage was hardly visible in aerial photographs.
Larry Arrendale, a duty officer with the Federal Aviation Administration in Atlanta, said there was "no indication of trouble" before air controllers lost radio contact with the jet at 7:12 p.m. Wednesday.
But Estelle Jenkins, who lives in the town of Cosby about five miles from the crash site, said the jet flew low over her house before it crashed, and it sounded like it was in trouble.
"We were watching TV and I heard it fly over and ... I knew there was something wrong with that plane," she said. "And then ... it sounded like something burst."
About 35 park rangers, Civil Air Patrol volunteers and Air Force personnel searched on foot and horseback for about eight hours Thursday before finding the wreckage. The Air National Guard contributed a helicopter and fixed-wing plane to the search, and the Tennessee Highway Patrol brought in a helicopter.
Gaffney Ledger South Carolina 1984-01-06