Plane crash in Arkansas lake kills pilot and injures passenger

Multiple agencies, including the Garland County Sheriff’s Office, the Lake Hamilton Fire Department, and Piney Fire Department, work Tuesday, June 27, 2023, with a private contractor, Dawson Aircraft Inc. of Clinton, Ark., to recover an aircraft that crashed into Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, Arkansas, on Monday, June 26. (James Leigh/The Sentinel-Record via AP)

A small airplane crashed and sank into Arkansas’ Lake Hamilton, not far from Hot Springs Memorial Field Airport, killing the pilot and injuring his daughter, authorities said.

The single-engine Cessna 177 Cardinal, flown by 49-year-old Daniel Dale Jones, had been diverted Monday from Kentucky “due to weather,” Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy Courtney Kizer told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. In a statement, the sheriff’s office said the pilot asked to land “due to aircraft distress.”

“They had made a call into the Hot Springs airport that they were going to land there, and we had already had people out on the tarmac waiting for them,” Kizer said. “By that time, they realized nobody had landed, they called 911, and we had already gotten the call from this location — a homeowner out here — that they had gone down.”

Authorities said the crash and reason for the distress call is being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board. According to preliminary reports from the Federal Aviation Administration, the plane experienced engine issues before crashing, news outlets reported.

Jones’ passenger, identified as his 23-year-old daughter, Denise Jones, was transported to an area hospital before being airlifted to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, the sheriff’s office said. Both the pilot and passenger are from Kentucky.

The pilot “was recovered at the scene unresponsive” by divers, and the sheriff’s office later confirmed that he had died.

Dana and Laura Long, who live nearby, were getting ready to go to work when they saw the crash. Dana Long said his wife “saw the plane flash by our window and hit the water,” but he only saw the splash.

The pair ran to the lake, but the plane was already mostly submerged by the time they arrived, he said.

“The young lady popped out,” he said. “I had grabbed a pole, and my wife went to the (sea) wall. The young lady immediately started to float on her back because she knew she was broke up pretty good. And my wife got the pole to her and pulled her to the side.”

Long said he and his wife pulled the woman from the water onto a floating mat but couldn’t get to the pilot.
First responders arrived shortly thereafter.

The plane is registered with the Federal Aviation Administration to EB Engraving LLC of Phoenix, Arizona.