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Knoxville pilot killed after plane crashed near Rockwood Airport

Sheriff Casey Cox said the 911 Center coordinated with the FAA and McGhee Tyson Airport to find the location of the crashed plane.

ROCKWOOD, Tenn. — UPDATE (8:35 p.m.): Emergency crews said a pilot is dead after their plane crashed near Rockwood Airport Tuesday.

Authorities said the plane had come from Island Home Airport and identified the victim as 35-year-old Vasile Ghelan from Knoxville. Authorities said they found Ghelan dead at the crash site. 

The CCSO said the single-engine plane was a private plane with a flight school. The details behind the crash are still unknown.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to the family and friends," the CCSO said.

Sheriff Casey Cox from Cumberland County confirmed to 10News that first responders from Cumberland, Roane, and Morgan counties were in the area looking for the plane after receiving a call around 7:52 a.m. The U.S. Air Force and several other East Tennessee agencies also assisted in locating the crash site.

A command post has been set up at the airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a statement Tuesday morning: "The Federal Aviation Administration issued an Alert Notice (ALNOT) today at 9:23 a.m. local time to public safety agencies, pilots and airports to alert them about a missing Gulfstream American AA-5A. The flight departed Rockwood Municipal Airport in Tennessee. Local authorities are searching for the aircraft."

The National Transportation Safety Board also said they were investigating the crash. As of Tuesday evening, an investigator was traveling to the area.

NTSB said it could be years before we know what caused the plane crash.

The federal agency said its initial report on the crash could be out as early as next month, but the cause of the crash won't be released until its final report. 

The plane is a four-seater. The sheriff said there was only one person in the plane based on the 911 call.

Sgt. Gary Howard, Community Services Director for the Cumberland Co. Sheriff's Office said first responders were alerted to the possible crash of a single-engine plane at 7:32 a.m. CDT.

District Attorney General Russell Johnson said in a post on Facebook that it is believed the plane took off from the Rockwood Airport and possibly crashed in the Mt. Roosevelt area. The airport is located where the three counties come together, and it is believed at this time the plane may have crashed in Cumberland County, though that is not confirmed.

Just before 11 a.m. EDT, the Cumberland Co. Sheriff's Office tweeted that the search area is being narrowed to locations near the Rockwood Airport from the Old Highway 28 area and the crash could have been in Morgan County.

Johnson said that someone on the ground was talking to the man piloting the plane on a cell phone and lost contact.

Cox said the 911 Center coordinated with the FAA and McGhee Tyson Airport to determine the last location of the plane. What remained of the wreckage was found in a remote wooded area that was difficult for crews to access.

Credit: CCSO

The sheriff said five aircraft were used in the search, both fixed-wing and helicopters.

"As we're coming in through spring and the trees and the foliage getting so thick, it's really difficult, it's making it really challenging to be able to see anything from the sky," Cox said.