Businessman killed in Tennessee River helicopter crash identified

Officials: 3 rescued, 1 dead after helicopter crashes into Tennessee River

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Family members have identified the man killed Monday night when a helicopter crashed into the Tennessee River.

Update 2:50 p.m. EDT Aug. 4: Family members told WATE that Joe Clayton, who co-founded manufactured housing company Clayton Homes in 1966, died in Monday’s crash.

“I am devastated and completely heartbroken by the loss of my wonderful brother, Joe,” Jim Clayton, who co-founded Clayton Homes with his brother, said in a statement obtained by WATE.

Content Continues Below

“Joe and I were as close as two brothers can be, and, as only siblings, we have supported each other since growing up together on a farm in West Tennessee and as business partners for decades. My thoughts and concerns are totally for Joe’s family right now.”

Jim Clayton, businessman John McBride and Jim Clayton’s grandson, Flynt Griffin, survived Monday’s crash, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

“I am very grateful to the emergency personnel who responded so quickly and professionally and to the caring couple on a nearby boat who gave assistance,” Jim Clayton said, according to the News Sentinel

Original report: The Knoxville Fire Department said a body has been recovered after a helicopter crashed into the Tennessee River Monday night, multiple media outlets reported.

The department confirmed just after 10:30 p.m. that the body of one of four people aboard the aircraft who had been unaccounted for following the crash had been recovered and pronounced dead, WVLT reported.

Authorities have not yet identified any of the individuals aboard the flight.

Knoxville Fire Department spokesman D.J. Corcoran told the Knoxville News Sentinel that the initial distress call was received just before 8 p.m. and the crash occurred in the Sequoyah Hills neighborhood.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there were four people aboard the aircraft, and fire officials confirmed three of the passengers were able to swim to safety before being rescued by a passing pontoon boat, WVLT reported.

All three victims were transported to area hospitals for treatment, but the fire department could not immediately provide updates on their conditions, the TV station reported.

It was also not immediately clear if any homeowners in the vicinity of the crash were injured when the Eurocopter EC-130 plunged into the river behind a private, West Knoxville home. The FAA said the National Transportation Safety Board will determine the probable cause of the accident, WVLT reported.

Robert Crawford, a Sequoyah Hills resident, told the News Sentinel that he witnessed the helicopter crash. He said he saw the helicopter descend toward the river, and it “seemed to hesitate” before suddenly hitting the water causing the rotor blades to explode.

“Hundreds of little pieces were floating on the water,” Crawford told the newspaper.