Portion of Cherokee National Forest closed to public for military aircraft crash investigation

Photo courtesy of WATE via U.S. Forest Service

TELLICO PLAINS, Tenn. (WATE) — The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency announced the U.S. Forest Service has closed a portion of the Tellico Ranger District in Cherokee National Forest to public entry while the U.S. Navy investigates a military aircraft crash that happened Sunday.

The Navy says Lt. Patrick L. Ruth, 31, of Metairie, Louisiana; and Lt. J.G. Wallace E. Burch, 25, of Horn Lake, Mississippi, died when their T-45C aircraft went down in the Cherokee National Forest in Tellico Plains. Both pilots were assigned to the “Eagles” of Training Squadron 7 based at Naval Air Station Meridian, Mississippi.

Lt. J.G. Wallace E. Burch (left) and Lt. Patrick L. Ruth (right) (source: U.S. Navy)

Monroe County Emergency Management Director David Chambers the cause of the crash is still unknown. Chambers believed debris from the plane scattered for half a mile.

The forestry service says the closure will remain in effect until the U.S. Navy concludes their investigation. The temporary closure order applies to the following areas:

  • FS-RD 210 – Tellico River Road from Pheasant Field Picnic Area to Stateline Campground
  • FS-RD – Beaverdam Bald Road
  • FS-RD 61 – Whigg Meadow Road
  • FS-RD – 40841
  • FS-RD – 40921
  • FS-RD – 2417 – Big Cove Branch Road
  • Benton MacKaye Trail #2 from Sandy Gap to Mud Gap
  • Kirkland Creek Trail (#85)
  • Whigg Ridge Trail (#86)
  • Brookshire Creek Trail (#180)

The Donley Cabin (Access to cabin only), Dam Creek Campground and Spivey Cove Campground (Access to campgrounds only) will remain open. For information about the closure area call the Tellico Ranger District at 423-254-8400.

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