William McClain, 76, of Acworth, Georgie, was planning a trip to Mississippi to spend his 77th birthday with his brother. In an attempt to test a flight route there last week, McClain crashed in Etowah County, near the Aurora Community.
Etowah County Sheriff’s Office received a call of a missing plane at about 8 p.m. Thursday. The plane had taken off from Calhoun, Ga. Thursday morning.
Sheriff Jonathan Horton said McClain’s plane – a Zenith STOL CH750 - fell off radar at about 1 p.m. Thursday, but authorities were not notified until about 8 p.m.
Searchers combed a 4- to 6-mile radius in the densely wooded area near Aurora and Egypt communities. Helicopters from Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and Marshall and Etowah county sheriff’s offices were utilized in the search, in addition to volunteers on foot and in ATVs.
The Boaz Fire Department launched a drone late Thursday night for more than three hours, but came up empty handed.
“This past week, (McClain) was to fly to Tupelo, which was halfway to Fayetteville, where he was going to take his flight for the birthday, and he made it to Tupelo, we understand,” Horton said.
“He didn’t ground and for whatever reason he circled the airport and descended back to Acworth. This area is about halfway between Tupelo and Acworth.”
The plane was discovered Saturday at about 10 a.m. by a group of searchers while walking the woods off of Old Baker Gap Road. The plane was found intact, but damaged, on private property. The homeowners were not at home when the plane crashed.
“Even the helicopters, after the aircraft was found this morning, drones that took aerial videos still could not spot the vehicle above the trees to tell you how dense the area is,” Horton said Saturday afternoon. He characterized the area as being “treacherous terrain.”
Federal Aviation Administration officials were on the scene Saturday, but declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.