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

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

A plane that crashed into Lake Hartwell on Saturday afternoon, resulting in the pilot’s death, remains more than 100 feet underwater where it is stuck in trees blanketing the lakebed, officials said Monday.

Local divers located the wreckage but could not enter the plane and recover the body, Hart County Sheriff Mike Cleveland told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed the crash Saturday and said the plane’s pilot was its only occupant.

The pilot has not been publicly identified.

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, the sheriff confirmed.

Cleveland said he did not 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. Divers from the Georgia State Patrol tried to help the Hart County dive team, but the state agency’s own policies prevent divers from descending below 100 feet, Cleveland said.

The FAA initially described the plane as a single-engine aircraft, but Cleveland said Monday the Beechcraft B55 is “larger than what people think.” The B55 is a twin-engine plane with a six-person seating capacity, he said.

ExplorePlane crashes into Lake Hartwell near Georgia-South Carolina state line

Divers working in pitch black conditions could not get the doors to the plane open and were not allowed to “alter” the aircraft, Cleveland said. Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board want to preserve the condition of the aircraft for the sake of their investigation, he explained. In addition to the NTSB and local authorities, an insurance company is investigating, he added.

The sheriff said the NTSB has approved raising the plane and county officials are working to find a salvage company that can lift the wreckage from the lakebed without compromising the investigation. The salvage contractors would likely use a cable or floats to lift the plane, Cleveland said. Salvage divers will be forced to contend with the extreme depth of the wreckage as well as trees on the lake bottom entangling the aircraft.

— Please return to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for updates.