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U.S. Navy identifies pilots killed in Tellico Plains plane crash

Photo courtesy of CBS
Photo courtesy of CBS(WVLT)
Published: Oct. 1, 2017 at 5:21 PM EDT
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The United States Navy identified two pilots they said did not survive in a crash Sunday in Tellico Plains in the Cherokee National Forest.

Federal investigators said Lt. Patrick L. Ruth, 31, of Metairie, Louisiana, and Lt. j.g. Wallace E. Burch, 25, of Horn Lake, Mississippi died after their aircraft went down on Oct. 1. Both pilots were assigned to the "Eagles" pf Training Squadron (VT) 7 based at Naval Air Station Meridian, Mississippi.

According to a statement released on its website, the Navy said Ruth had been in the Navy for nine years and was a member of VT-7 since 2015. Burch had been in the Navy for nearly three years and was a member of VT-7 since 2016.

@USNavy tweeted, "UPDATE: Training Air Wing ONE confirms T-45 crashed Sunday in Tennessee. Two pilots did not survive -"

In a post to its Facebook page, the Monroe County Sheriff's Office said the jet crashed in the Cherokee National Forest near the fish hatchery on River Road.

Investigators initially kept civilians three miles away from the crash site because the jet had explosives in it; however, on Monday, the Monroe County EMS director clarified that the aircraft did not have explosives on board.

The U.S. Navy described the aircraft as a T-45 Goshawk jet aircraft from Training Air Wing ONE, based out of Meridian, Mississippi. The Navy release stated the aircraft was training in the area and had not yet returned to the air station at 6 p.m. Sunday.

The Navy said there were two pilots aboard the aircraft — an instructor and a student.

"All indications are that there are no survivors, Monroe County Emergency Management Director David Chambers said. "We were able to get all the way to the cockpit area of the site, so as of this time we're assuming that — until we can have confirmation — there was no sign of survivors."

Authorities stopped recovery efforts Sunday night because of the explosives thought to be present at the crash site. The National Guard was on the scene Monday to help find the plane.

Chambers said there was a no-fly zone around the crash site, to prevent any unnecessary air traffic. As of Tuesday, the FAA no-fly map showed the three-mile no-fly zone was no longer active.

On Monday, investigators will still blocking a section of road near the crash site. The cause of the crash is still under investigation, and fires caused by the crash were still being put out Monday evening.

A local shop owner said when she heard the sirens from the crash, all she could do was pray.

"It's sad, it's heartbreaking," said Marcie Moats. "Their families are hurting for their loved ones, they probably had children, grandchildren. It's always tough when you lose someone you love."