ABINGDON, Va. (AP) — The pilot of the helicopter, which crashed into South Holston Lake last Friday night, has been identified as Bill Starnes of East Tennessee.
The helicopter was owned by Food City and Jim Bunn of Central Coal Company.
Starnes, an extremely experienced military and civilian pilot, was the only passenger on board the aircraft. At this time, no additional details are known about the cause of the accident. Food City officials have deferred to the findings of local authorities, who continue to investigate the matter.
The helicopter had dropped off passengers attending the race Friday evening at Bristol Motor Speedway and had taken off when moments later it crashed. Starnes’ body has yet to be recovered.
“Bill was a great friend, a fiercely loyal associate, an expert pilot and a devoted husband and family man,” said Steven C. Smith, Food City president and chief executive officer. “Our hearts are broken and we are saddened beyond words by this tragedy. The effects are felt throughout our entire Food City Family, who are continually in thought and prayer for his wife and family.”