HART COUNTY, Ga. (WSPA) – Recovery crews have been unable to retrieve the body of the pilot who crashed into Lake Hartwell Saturday.
“We have exhausted all of our local resources within the area,” said Capt. Chris Carroll of the Hart County Sheriff’s Office.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Beech BE55 “was on an IFR flight plan and departed Punta Gorda, Florida” Saturday morning.
Divers located the plane Saturday afternoon tangled in tree branches 120 feet underwater.
“It just so happened it’s in one of the deepest parts of the lake,” said Hart County Sheriff Mike Cleveland. “The plane is in the trees. I’ve been told the plane flipped over. The top is on the bottom. The doors to the plane are jammed so we’re not able to retrieve the body out of the plane.”
“Divers were able to go down and sent the ROV [remote-operated vehicle] back down,” added Carroll. “They were able to push the ROV into the rear window of the plane where it can be driven through the front to try to look around in the cockpit area. At that time was when we were able to determine there was a person in the plane.”
Cleveland said the NTSB has given the county permission to lift the plane so they can remove the pilot’s body.
Carroll said the sheriff’s office is considering bringing a crane or air bags in to lift it.
“Once it’s lifted, we’ll have to move it to a shallow area to get the body out of it,” he said.
The NTSB told 7NEWS it does not have a time frame of when the aircraft will be recovered. A spokesperson said the agency “is working with a salvage company and the insurance company on recovery efforts.”
NTSB said it is still in the “fact-gathering phase of the investigation.”
A preliminary report will be released in the coming weeks.
A spokesperson said “a typical NTSB investigation can take 12-24 months to complete and determine cause.”