CORNELIUS, N.C. -- A Cornelius family believes it knows how a plane got to the bottom of Lake Norman roughly 35 years ago – they watched it sink.
Jane Jennings said she took her kids -- Abigail, David, and Michael – out on Davidson Creek one fall afternoon, when she saw a plane coming down for a hard landing on the water.
Abigail Jennings, who was 8 or 9 at the time, remembers her mother’s words: “My mom said, ‘I think that plane's going to crash.’”
It landed, and started to sink, said Jennings.
“She said, ‘Hold on’ and put the boat in full throttle,” Jennings said. “We took off to where the plane was going down.”
Jennings said her mom helped the pilot and another man aboard, and took them to shore. It was an overwhelming experience for a child, she said.
“It was scary. I remember fear, and wanting to get away from the plane,” said Jennings. “So I was very glad we were away from it -- and out of harm’s way, and safe.”
Jennings and her mother didn’t remember the name of the pilot or the plane’s owner, but others around the Lake Norman area called and e-mailed NBC Charlotte with similar information after we aired our story about SONAR pictures of a plane at the bottom of the lake.
Charlotte Firefighters spotted the plane in the main channel of the lake around the Mecklenburg-Iredell County line during a training exercise on September 5th.
The plane’s owner was a man named John Gibson, said Carroll Lineberger, Jr., of Lincolnton. Lineberger remembers flying in the plane as a child. His dad, a licensed pilot, would rent it and fly around the lake.
“You just open the doors and the water would be right there at ya’, and that was pretty cool,” he said. “Probably two weeks after we flew in it, dad told me it had sank.”
Others also said the plane belonged to Gibson, who is credited with starting the Lake Norman Air Park. He sold the airstrip, according to its website, and has since died. The airstrip is now a neighborhood of airplane enthusiasts who use the paved strip to fly their planes in and out of their homes.
Lineberger saw the SONAR pictures on the news, and recognized the plane immediately.
“I looked at my wife and said, ‘I bet you 10 dollars that's the plane we used to fly in’,” he said. “Then they showed one picture of the plane that's kind of upside down, and I said, ‘I'm 100% sure that's the plane now.’”
The FAA is investigating the plane to find its owner. Charlotte Fire Dept. divers have already confirmed there is no one trapped inside.
Jennings is fine with leaving it at the bottom of the lake, but Lineberger would like to see it raised.
“I wish somebody would bring it up. I'd like to see it,” he chuckled.
So far, the only thing it’s brought up is memories.