K9 units brought in as search for missing pilot continues
LAUDERDALE COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - The search for the pilot of a helicopter that crashed into the Tennessee River continues on Wednesday.
Crews searching for the helicopter in Lauderdale County pinpointed the aircraft on Tuesday night and determined that the pilot was not inside.
Officials brought in K9 units on Wednesday to help with recovery efforts as they search for the pilot. FAA, ENSP, Army and state helicopters were also brought in to help with the search. Crews will take turns searching the banks of the river, while the dogs on the ground will lead the search.
On Monday night, crews discovered what they believed was debris from the helicopter, which is thought to have crashed about three-quarters of a mile west of the Natchez Trace bridge in Lauderdale County. Officials say the aircraft, a Hughes 500, was en route from Corinth, MS to Scottsboro. The cause of the crash is unknown.
Emergency crews brought a dive team in to search for the helicopter and two boats searched the area on Monday afternoon. The Colbert County dive team and Cherokee search and rescue boats went back out just after 9 a.m. Tuesday, although divers have not been in the water.
Officials were trying to positively identify the aircraft underwater using sonar image and cameras and secure the area before sending divers down. They worked to decipher the difference between river debris and actual wreckage.
"The currents are going to be hard for the divers first and foremost, second the speed is going to move the debris and possibly move the aircraft so we've got a moving target," said Chuck Landsdell with Cherokee Fire & Rescue.
A witness said he was fishing under the bridge when the helicopter hit the water. The helicopter reportedly went down in the barge channel, which is the deepest part of the river. By the time emergency crews got to the scene, all the debris had already sunk.
River traffic is moving as normal, although that may change once crews locate the exact site of the wreckage.
The NTSB said they would not come to the scene until the aircraft is pinpointed and the area secured.
Haverfield Aviation, an aviation company, reported a missing aircraft that had last been reported on GPS near the scene of Monday's search. They believe only one person was on board during the crash.
The company said the pilot was traveling from one job to the next, but wasn't currently working.
Haverfield Aviation, based out of Pennsylvania, has three bases in Denton, TX; Fort Wayne, IN and Valdosta, GA. According to its website, the company provides aerial power line inspection and construction support services in the US and abroad.
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