Report shows multiple people warned Sevier Co. helicopter crash pilot not to fly

Matthew Jones was not cleared to fly at the time of the fatal Sevier Co. crash, documents state.
Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 9:02 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 12, 2022 at 9:59 PM EST
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SEVIER CO., Tenn. (WVLT) - A helicopter crash in Sevier County resulted in at least one death and one person critically injured on Dec. 29, 2021, representatives with the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office told WVLT News.

The crash occurred in the Cosby area along Hooper Highway near Apple Tree Lane, according to Cocke County and Sevier County Sherriff’s Office officials. SCSO officials were also able to confirm that Sevier County EMS, the National Park Service, the CCSO, and the SCSO were on scene.

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The pilot, later identified as Matthew Jones, came from Utah to lease a helicopter and traveled to the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport to pick it up, according to a release by the National Transportation Safety Board obtained by WVLT News.

The weather throughout the day on that Wednesday was changing and multiple employees at the service center advised Jones not to fly due to the dangers of flying under those conditions in the Smoky Mountains, according to the report.

“One person showed him a book in their training room filled with controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) accidents that occurred in the area,” according to the report. “The pilot’s response was ‘those are hills,’ and informed him he had 14 years of experience of mountain flying.”

Before leaving, a local helicopter air ambulance pilot stopped Jones and asked him what his intentions were and also warned him not to fly and that he would never make it to his destination, which Jones said was Raleigh, North Carolina, according to NTSB officials.

Jones and the passenger took off just after 2 p.m. and crashed within the hour. The passenger, who has not yet been identified died in the crash, according to the report.

WVLT News was on scene and spoke to a witness who said he lives less than a tenth of a mile from the crash site.

“When something like that hits the bottom of a mountain that you your house is attached to you know it,” Mark Houge said. “It shakes windows it rattles things and you know it has to be something big. A meteor? No, but a helicopter? We saw yes.”

Houge told WVLT News that the helicopter came straight down.

“I saw... the elevation of the helicopter and it wasn’t going straight up or to the side. It was going straight down,” Houge said.

Jones, a Utah native, was indicted in Utah on Oct. 13, 2021 for operating as a flight instructor and defrauding a person who was paying him for flight instruction, court documents say. Jones was part of a scheme that involved advertising his company as an instructor on Instagram and using $9,958.16 intended for instruction for personal use.

During the hearing, the court also ordered Jones be evaluated for THC levels and undergo treatment for substance abuse, court documents state. The court also denied Jones’ request to keep flying after the incident.

This is a developing story.

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