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Ultralight plane crashes at South Holston Lake

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Ultralight plane in South Holston

Randy Wells, right, describes how an ultralight plane flew over he and Randy Deel's heads while they were on South Holston Lake fishing on Saturday. The plane crashed into the water shortly after and the two raced their bass boat to help in getting the pilot out of the water and onto another boat that came from a local marina. The plane sank in 105' of water according to the depth finder on the boat.

BRISTOL, Tenn.—A pair of fishermen were on South Holston Lake late Saturday afternoon when a small ultralight plane crashed into the water.

“I said, ‘Why is he flying so low? He is going to crash that thing.’ And he did crash it,” said Randy Deel, who pulled the pilot to safety.

Matthew Cameron of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency said witnesses observed the ultralight aircraft go down into the lake in front of Painter Creek Marina in Sullivan County about 5 p.m.

Deel, and his friend and co-worker, Randy Wells, were near the marina at the time.

“He came down the cove and I mean dead straight over top of us,” Wells said. “Then he waved. We waved back. That’s when he started doing all of these tricks.”

Deel said he had attempted to take a picture of the pilot as he was flying over the bass boat.

After a couple maneuvers, the plane went out of sight and into the water.

“When it hit, it flopped straight over,” Deel said.

The two men rushed to the middle of the reservoir to where the plane crashed. They observed the pilot bobbing up and down in the water

“We heard him holler ‘help’ twice,” Wells said.

Once they reached the man, who they said had a difficult time unhooking himself from the plane, Deel managed to pull the pilot to the side of the boat.

“He acted like he was in shock,” Deel said. “He was really cold and bleeding on his hand. He said, ‘I’m OK. I’m OK.”

A pontoon boat, which had also been at the marina, also went to the man. Deel said he was unable to pull the man into the bass boat, so the individuals on the pontoon boat helped him into their vessel.

“They had a ladder,” Deel said. “I couldn’t lift him out of that water.”

The pontoon boat then took the pilot to the shore

“As of now, no one knows the identity of the pilot,” Cameron said. “The aircraft sank and has not been recovered.”

The TWRA does not investigate aircraft accidents, but was called to the scene to explore the possibility of boating involvement, Cameron said.

If anyone has information about the pilot or those who rendered aide, contact the TWRA at 1-800-831-1174 or the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office.

The man was not seriously injured and left in a private vehicle, witnesses said.

“He was lucky we seen him,” Wells said. “There is no way he could have swam that far. That water is too cold.”

He added that the water at that point was about 105 feet deep.


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