Pilot dies in crash in Lake Hamilton

Hot Springs couple pulls survivor, 23, from water as small plane submerges

Volunteers with the Piney Fire Department maneuver the department's rescue boat near a plane crash in Lake Hamilton Monday morning. - Photo by Donald Cross of The Sentinel-Record

HOT SPRINGS -- A small Cessna airplane crashed and sank into Lake Hamilton Monday morning a short distance from Hot Springs Memorial Field, killing the pilot and injuring his daughter, the Garland County sheriff's office said.

The single-engine Cessna 177 Cardinal, which was flown by 49-year-old Daniel Dale Jones, had been diverted from Kentucky "due to weather," Garland County sheriff's Deputy Courtney Kizer said. Both Jones and his daughter, identified as Denise Jones, 23, were from Kentucky.

Airport Director Don Rowlett said around 8:05 a.m. "a blanket call" was made to the flight tower. Rowlett was unable to give any additional information about the call due to the fact the airport does not "have a recording device here."

"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."

Denise Jones was transported from the scene by ambulance to a local hospital before being airlifted to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences later Monday morning. She was recovered from the lake shortly after first responders arrived.

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 on Port-Au-Prince Street, 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 downstairs, but by the time they arrived, "the plane was probably about 80% already submerged," he said.

"The young lady popped out," he said.

"I had grabbed a pole, and my wife went to the 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.

"I went out and tried to see if there was anything I could do for the pilot or anything and realized pretty quick that that was way out of my league. We got the young lady from the sea wall -- I have a big, floaty, big blue mat that I keep out in the water, and we unhooked it and took it over. And I don't know how but we got her up onto the blue mat, got her situated to where she could be still."

First responders arrived shortly after the Longs were able to get Denise Jones out of the water.

Dana Long said "there was no sound" when the plane went by.

"We hear planes all the time because we're right in the landing path for the airport," he said. "I think it's what's referred to as first approach, and so we see a lot of airplanes come over a lot. So you hear an airplane if it's coming right, and that one was not making any sound. We didn't hear anything anyway, and all we saw was a big splash, and it went down very fast."

Port-Au-Prince is located just across Lakeshore Drive from the west end of the airport.

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

The sheriff's office said in a release the plane's "last location is being investigated by the FAA as well as the reason for the distress call."

Multiple agencies responded to the incident including the Hot Springs Police Department, Hot Springs Fire Department, Arkansas State Police, Lake Hamilton Fire Department, Piney Fire Department, Garland County Marine Patrol, Garland County Department of Emergency Management and Hot Springs Divers.

  photo  Bystanders on Port-Au-Prince Street stand near the area of Lake Hamilton where a small Cessna airplane crashed and sank into Lake Hamilton Monday morning. - Photo by Donald Cross of The Sentinel-Record