WFLA-Ch. 8 helicopter pilot one of two men killed in plane crash in southwest Georgia

Published November 9 2015
Updated November 10 2015

A longtime helicopter pilot for WFLA-Ch. 8 and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office was one of two men who died Monday when their plane crashed in southwest Georgia.

Georgia authorities have not released their names, but WFLA-Ch. 8 announced Monday evening that one victim was one of the TV station's helicopter pilots, Lester Hathcox.

The twin-engine plane, a Cessna 441, took off from Lakeland Linder Regional Airport about 10:15 a.m. It lost contact with air traffic controllers before 1 p.m. about 13 miles west of Cairo-Grady County Airport in southwest Georgia, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Authorities in three Georgia counties searched for several hours.

The plane's wreckage was found about 4 p.m. a few miles northeast of Climax, Ga., said Decatur County Sheriff Wiley Griffin.

The sheriff confirmed that two people aboard the plane were found dead.

Hathcox, 58, was a longtime Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy who piloted the agency's helicopters. In 2003, he was injured when he and another deputy crashed a sheriff's helicopter in Ruskin.