Florida man’s body recovered from Lake Hartwell after plane crash

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

The body of a man from Florida was removed Thursday from a plane that was stuck more than 100 feet underwater after it crashed into Lake Hartwell last week, officials said.

Todd Jeffrey Carrell, 55, of North Port, was confirmed to be the only person aboard when the plane crashed Saturday, according to authorities, but divers could not enter it to recover his body. The plane crashed into an especially deep part of Lake Hartwell near the South Carolina state line, not far from the Long Point Recreation Area on the Georgia side, Hart County Sheriff Mike Cleveland said.

The plane was about 121 feet under water, Cleveland said, stuck in trees blanketing the lakebed.

Cleveland said he didn’t expect the plane to be recovered until Tuesday at the earliest due to the unusually complex operation needed to pull the wreckage from the deep-water crash site. The operation took longer than expected and Carrell was removed about 6 p.m. Thursday. His body was turned over to the Hart County Coroner’s Office.

ExploreOfficials: Wreckage of fatal Lake Hartwell plane crash stuck 100 feet underwater

Divers, who were working in pitch black conditions, could not get the plane doors open and were not allowed to “alter” the aircraft, according to Cleveland. Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board wanted to preserve the condition of the aircraft for the investigation, he explained.

The Federal Aviation Administration initially described the plane as a single-engine aircraft, but Cleveland said Monday the Beechcraft B55 is “larger than what people think.” It’s a twin-engine plane with a six-person seating capacity, he said. Several agencies were contacted by the NTSB and the plane’s insurance company to remove the aircraft from underwater, Cleveland said.

According to FAA records, Carrell had his pilot license since December 2017. He left Punta Gorda, Florida, about 9:40 a.m. and crashed into Lake Hartwell about 12:40 p.m., according to the website Flight Aware.

Between noon and 12:10 p.m., Flight Aware showed that the aircraft dropped from an altitude of 8,800 feet to 2,200 feet as it neared the lake. It continued circling the area while decreasing and increasing altitude, until crashing.

An investigation into the cause of the crash is ongoing by the FAA and NTSB.