- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 7, 2015

FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) - The owner of a helicopter has reported that it crashed into the Tennessee River in northern Alabama, federal aviation officials said Tuesday.

The owner reported that the Hughes H369 with one person onboard crashed Monday afternoon near Florence, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement to The Associated Press.

Since Monday afternoon, searchers have been trying to locate the wreckage and the pilot.

A witness reported seeing a helicopter flying low near the Natchez Trace Parkway, then hearing sounds of a possible crash, Cherokee police Chief Jason Williamson said.

“It was flying low, below the level of the bridge,” Michael Puckett of Cherokee told the TimesDaily newspaper of Florence.

Puckett said he was fishing with Loren Smith, also of Cherokee, on Monday afternoon when they saw the aircraft.

“It looked like it was trying to land - on the water,” Smith said. “Then it just nosedived straight into the water.”

The two said they saw debris, but no person, emerge and float downstream.

Colbert County Sheriff Frank Williamson told the Florence newspaper that Haverfield Aviation of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, reported pings it received from the helicopter. He said those pings put it near Colbert Creek before it struck the water.

Haverfield is a Tennessee Valley Authority contractor that performs aerial power line inspections, TVA spokeswoman Kristine Cooper said. However, it wasn’t immediately clear what the helicopter was doing when witnesses reported the crash.

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