According to the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, William P. Shaver, 66, was attempting to land his single-engine seaplane in a cove near Riverside Campground in the Cedar Bluff area when it clipped power lines and crashed into the lake. The crash was reported to Cherokee County 911 approximately 9:50 a.m.
“I’m thinking he was probably familiar with the area,” said Cherokee County Sheriff Joe Shaver (who is unrelated to the victim). “He was coming to pick up a friend, and they were going to spend the day flying. He either misjudged the distance to those lines or didn’t see them.”
According to a statement from the sheriff’s office, rescue efforts were initially stalled because of the live power lines brought down by the plane.
Tim Bates of the Piedmont Rescue Squad said the power lines were not actually in the water, but they were near enough that it was dangerous to enter the lake and divers had to wait for the Tennessee Valley Authority to turn off the power before they could make the rescue.
Bates said the plane was barely visible from the shore.
Sheriff Shaver said divers were able to get onto the tail section of the plane and push it down in order to lift the front of the craft out of the mud and open the cabin door to retrieve the victim’s body. The Cherokee County Rescue Squad recovered the victim from the plane at 12:18 p.m.
According to Bates, Piedmont’s Steven Tidwell and Kevin Ware of the Cherokee County Rescue Squad actually recovered the victim from the aircraft cabin. Bates was in the water for support.
The sheriff couldn’t immediately identify whether the victim died from injuries related to the crash or drowning. He said an autopsy was scheduled.
The department’s statement said that the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were en route to the scene Saturday afternoon.
The sheriff’s office said a number of agencies responded to the scene and assisted with the recovery effort, including the Cherokee County, Piedmont, and Fisher Rescue Squads; Cherokee Emergency Medical Services, the Cherokee County Emergency Management Association, Alabama Marine Police, and the Alabama State Trooper Aviation Unit.
“There were people from everywhere that did a good job,” the sheriff said.