see: http://www.timesnews.net/article.php?id=9002813 (Kingsport, TN)
Ministers from 5 East Tennessee Jehovah's Witness congregations aboard plane
Published 09/02/2007 By Jeff Bobo
Sunday afternoon state forestry officials were using a bulldozer to clear a path through the Cherokee National Forest on Holston Mountain to the site of a single engine aircraft carrying five ministers that crashed shortly after takeoff from Elizabethton Municipal Airport Saturday morning.
According to the Carter County Sheriff’s Department the crash occurred between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Saturday.
A Beech Bonanza aircraft had reportedly taken off from Hamblen County Saturday morning prior to landing in Elizabethton to pick up a passenger, and was then destined for Virginia Highlands Airport near Abingdon, Va., but never arrived.
A passing airplane spotted the smoldering wreckage around 7 p.m. Saturday.
The debris was spotted about a mile and a half down the southern side from the top of the mountain in an very rugged and remote area of Holston Mountain in Carter County.
A ground search was initiated Saturday night but was stalled by darkness.
The Carter County Sheriff’s Department said Sunday afternoon that the plane has been found by ground searchers and an attempt was under way to create access and secure the scene until Federal Aviation Administration investigators could arrive.
There was no official word Sunday afternoon on the number of passengers in the plane or their status.
The Times-News, however, received information Sunday that there were five passengers in the plane and they were each ministers from a different Jehovah’s Witness congregation in East Tennessee.
The Times-News will withhold their names pending confirmation of notice to their families.
According to Church elder Robert Burpitt who contacted the Times-News Sunday, the plane passengers were members of a "Regional Building Committee" which makes decisions regarding Kingdom Hall building projects. They were on their way to Abingdon Saturday morning to meet with congregation members from Lebanon, Va. to discuss building a new church there.
The ministers were from Chattanooga, Pigeon Forge, Morristown, Elizabethton and Unicoi County.
Although there was no official word on their status, there was not much hope Saturday that anyone survived.
Burpitt said the church will be making an official statement about the accident sometime Sunday afternoon.