Body of Georgia pilot found at plane crash site in Alabama

William Elliot McClain
William Elliot McClain

Credit: Etowah County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Etowah County Sheriff's Office

Search crews have found the body of a pilot from metro Atlanta at the site of a plane crash in eastern Alabama, according to AL.com.

The pilot was identified as 76-year-old William Elliot McClain of Acworth, according to AL.com.

Officials said McClain’s body was found at the crash site Saturday in a thick, wooded area off Old Baker Gap Road in the Aurora community in Etowah County, about 15 miles northwest of Gadsden, according to AL.com.

McClain was the only person aboard the Zenith STOL aircraft.

The crash will be investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board. McClain’s body will be autopsied at the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences.

“There does not appear to be (any) foul play and the incident appears to be a tragic accident,” Etowah County Sheriff Jonathon Horton said in a press release.

Authorities had been searching for the small, lightweight plane that vanished above Alabama on Thursday night after taking off from northwest Georgia, according to reports.

Officials said the plane was on the return flight of a round-trip between Georgia and Mississippi when it disappeared northeast of Birmingham in Etowah County, about 90 miles west of Calhoun.

The pilot was scheduled to refuel in Tupelo but instead circled back toward Georgia without landing, The Associated Press reported.

Officials had speculated the plane may have gone down around Aurora Lake, south of Boaz, The Gadsden Times reported, citing officials with the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office.

When first alerted to the missing plane about 8:15 p.m. Thursday, Etowah County Sheriff Jonathon Horton launched an immediate search of dense forest areas around Alabama Highway 179, according to reports.

Several police agencies and volunteer fire crews also joined the search, according to reports.

McClain built the Zenith CH750 aircraft over the past couple of years and was certified to fly, his brother Gary told the authorities, according to AL.com. McClain planned to fly from Georgia to visit his brother in Arkansas and celebrate their birthdays this week.

AJC staff writer ArLuther Lee contributed to this article.