South Knoxville Plane Crash

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Knoxville (WVLT) -- A Loudon County man was taken to UT Medical Center Sunday afternoon after his plane crashed into Fort Loudon Lake.

It happened just before 2:30 PM near the runway at Skyranch Airport on Alcoa Highway.

Albertus Wolfkamp, 65, Lenoir City's experimental aircraft experienced what witnesses say was engine failure.

A friend and fellow pilot says he felt helpless.

Fortunately, the crash looked a lot worse than it is.

"I saw it take off," said Sam Suffern, a friend of Wolfkamp's. "I heard the engine quit, I saw the thing come in and then I saw him hit."

Just minutes after taking to the sky, the ultralight aircraft crash landed, about 20 yards off the shore.

"When the gear hit the water, the plane went up on it's nose," Suffern said, "and it had to have thrown him forward."

Suffern, was working on his own plane, when everything unfolded.

"He was still in the plane when we got there," he said. "Another fellow and I waded out from shore and a fisherman came over with his boat."

"He hit mostly horizontal," said Barney Tullock, another pilot who witnessed the crash. "It's just the fact that when you hit water you stop pretty suddenly."

The plane's pretty much intact and so is the pilot.

"He had a couple of gashes, one on each eye," Tullock said. "That's all I could see wrong with him, he was talking ok. I think he's probably alright."

Fellow flyers at Skyranch Airport call Wolfkamp, a good guy.

They say he was very experienced and use to fly for the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

"A lot of things conspired," Tullock said. "One is that Burt's a pretty good pilot, he was in control of his airplane. He was going slow and landed in shallow water."

Emergency crews also had to make sure there was no environmental risk.

"When I was out there, there wasn't much smell of fuel," Tullock said. "I've seen the cork down there, it didn't run out of gas, there's fuel in there."

Both Knoxville Police and Firefighters admit they almost never work incidents involving planes.

But they still play a pretty key role once everybody is removed from the wreckage.

"Our first concern, immediate concern is going to be environmental hazard," said Brent Seymour, Knoxville Fire Department. "We want to make sure there's nothing in the water, no fuel leaking, no oil. That we may need to notify environmental protection agency about."

No sign of any leak from the plane, so all clear on the environmental front.

On scene investigators expected federal agencies to finish off the investigation.

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