Federal aviation officials arrive at plane crash site in Lauderdale County

A plane crashed Wednesday night in a wildlife management area in Waterloo.

Posted: Oct 8, 2020 3:35 PM
Updated: Oct 8, 2020 5:38 PM

Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration arrived at a plane crash site in the Shoals on Thursday, and more aviation investigators are on the way.

The Lauderdale County Sheriff's Office said the pilot was travelling from Dallas to Knoxville Wednesday night when his plane crashed in a wildlife management area in Waterloo. That's about 300 miles from Knoxville.

Courtesy of the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Office

Lauderdale County Chief Deputy Richard Richey said Thursday afternoon that the sheriff's office received a call about 8:30 p.m. Wednesday from the Oak Ridge, Tennessee Police Department. They were asking about a missing plane.

"You could not hardly see at all here because there is no light for miles except for the moon, and it's just woods and dirt roads for miles," said Richey. "They started pinging his cellphone, and the last ping they got was here in this area."

Richey said search and rescue crews from multiple agencies spread out in the wildlife management area in Waterloo to search for the missing pilot. After about 5 hours of searching, an Alabama Law Enforcement Agency helicopter spotted the plane.

"There were several agencies out here to look, and when they found him, it's far off the road. We have to have some type of ATV to get back there," said Richey.

Lauderdale County Coroner Butch Tucker identified the pilot as 69-year-old Jerel Zarestky. What caused the plane to crash and his cause of death are both under investigation.

"The plane did not go up in flames. The pilot was ejected from the plane. As far as the damage to it, I have not seen the plane myself," said Richey.

He said they have this message for the pilot's family.

"We feel for them. I know they are just heartbroken over the loss of their loved one," said Richey.

More aviation investigators are expected to arrive at the crash site Thursday evening. It's unclear how long the investigation will last or when the plane will be removed. 

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