A look back at the biggest East Tennessee headlines from 2016

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – WATE 6 On Your Side reporter Whitney Good gave us the rundown on the biggest East Tennessee headlines of 2016 from beginning to end:

1: Gatlinburg sight seeing helicopter crash leaves 5 dead

Peyton Rasmussen, 22, Parker Rasmussen, 18, and their mother Johna Jochum Morvant. (Facebook/Johna Jochum Morvant)
Peyton Rasmussen, 22, Parker Rasmussen, 18, and their mother Johna Jochum Morvant. (Facebook/Johna Jochum Morvant)

In April, Smoky Mountain Helicopter Pilot Jason Dahl, 38, was killed, along with his four passengers, when the helicopter crashed on a ridge line near Rainbow Road in Pigeon Forge.

Kodak resident Johna Morvant, 49, her two children Parker Rasmussen, 18, and Peyton Rasmussen, 22, as well as Peyton Rasmussen’s boyfriend, Michael Mastalez, 21, were also killed.

The family has filed a federal lawsuit against the owner of Great Smoky Mountain Helicopters, Inc., Bobby Riggs.

Keith Morvant, Johna’s husband, and mother Lynne Frederick, Johna’s mother are suing Bobby Riggs claiming negligence and gross negligence.

Read more: Friends, family remember Pigeon Forge Helicopter pilot at memorial service

2: Blue Angels pilot Jeff Kuss killed in plane crash during flight practice in Smyrna

This May 19, 2016, photo shows Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss at an air show in Lynchburg, Va. A Blue Angels F/A-18 fighter jet crashed Thursday, June 2, near Nashville, Tenn., killing the pilot just days before a weekend air show performance, officials said. A U.S. official said the pilot was Kuss. (Matt Bell/The Register & Bee via AP)
This May 19, 2016, photo shows Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss at an air show in Lynchburg, Va. A Blue Angels F/A-18 fighter jet crashed Thursday, June 2, near Nashville, Tenn., killing the pilot just days before a weekend air show performance, officials said. A U.S. official said the pilot was Kuss. (Matt Bell/The Register & Bee via AP)

Also in April, the pilot of a U.S. Navy Blue Angels jet was killed in a crash in Smyrna ahead of their weekend air show at the city’s airport.

The Blue Angels officially identified the pilot as Capt. Jeff Kuss. The U.S. Navy says the crash happened during the beginning states of an afternoon practice.

Kuss was taking off from Smyrna Airport to start afternoon practice when the mishap occurred. The other five Blue Angel jets were not involved in the incident and landed safely moments later.

Read more: Pilot killed in U.S. Navy Blue Angels jet crash near Nashville

3: State wide AMBER alert issued for Hawkins County 9-year old; search lasts for days before arrest of her captor, Gary Simpson

Gary Simpson
Gary Simpson

In May the reward for information leading to the safe return of a Rogersville 9-year-old at the center of an  AMBER Alert grew to at least $41,000, just over one week after she went missing.

The 9-year-old was removed from school by her uncle by marriage, Gary Simpson, 57, under false pretenses, according to Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Police say Gary Simpson told school officials the child’s father was in a car accident and she may not be in school. They said Gary Simpson has no custodial rights and their whereabouts were unknown.

The 9-year-old was recovered safely after being hidden in the woods of Hawkins County with Simpson for over a week.

In December, Simpson was charged with rape and sexual battery in relation to the case.

Read More: Hawkins County man charged with rape, sexual battery and Heroes to be offered $35,000 reward for finding AMBER Alert subject

4. Pat Summitt passes away

Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt cheers her players on during the championship game of the SEC women's tournament in Chattanooga, Tenn. on Sunday, Feb. 28, 1999. Tennessee defeated Georgia, 85-69, for the title. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt cheers her players on during the championship game of the SEC women’s tournament in Chattanooga, Tenn. on Sunday, Feb. 28, 1999. Tennessee defeated Georgia, 85-69, for the title. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

In June Fans, friends, family and more came together to say a final goodbye to legendary Lady Vols Head Coach Pat Summitt.

A public Celebration of Life ceremony was held at Thompson Boling Arena, with thousands in attendance, ranging from friends and family, fans, former players, state dignitaries, colleagues and more.

Read More: Pat Summitt remembered

5: Zaevion Dobson receives posthumous award at the ESPY Awards.

In July Knoxville teen hero Zaevion Dobson posthumously received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles.

Zaevion Dobson (Source: Fulton High School)
Zaevion Dobson (Source: Fulton High School)

Dobson was shot and killed in December of 2015 while shielding two girls, Faith Gordon and Kiara Rucker, from gunfire in what was described as a random gang related shooting. Zaevion Dobson was not involved in a gang.

Zenobia Dobson said in her acceptance speech her son’s shooting should serve as a rallying cry for tougher gun laws.

Read more: Zaevion Dobson’s mother accepts Arthur Ashe Courage award on his behalf

 

6: Maryville Police Officer Kenny Moats killed in the line of duty

Officer Kenny Moats (Maryville Police Department)
Officer Kenny Moats (Maryville Police Department)

Maryville Police Officer Kenneth Moats died after reporting to a domestic call on August 25.

The Blount County Sheriff’s Office said they believe Brian Stalans was setting up law enforcement for an ambush. Investigators found a letter in his house in which he blamed a family member and the Blount County Sheriff’s Office for his problems.

Brian K. Stalans was charged with first degree murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault and unlawful carrying or possession of a weapon.

Members of the law enforcement, as well as Maryville Fire Department gathered to salute Officer Moats and say farewell to their friend and co-worker.

“We ask our citizens to remember this officer’s family. He has three small children. It’s a very trying time for his family. It’s a trying time for the men and women of the Maryville Police Department. It’s a trying time for the law enforcement in this community,” said Maryville Police Chief Tony Crisp, holding back tears.

Read More: Maryville man indicted after death of police officer

7: Vols beat Virginia Tech 54-25 at Battle At Bristol

In September, Tennessee ran away with a 45-24 win over Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway.

BRISTOL,TN - SEPTEMBER 10, 2016 - Quarterback Josh Dobbs #11 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the game between the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Tennessee Volunteers at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, TN. Photo By Ruth Dudley/Tennessee Athletics
BRISTOL,TN – SEPTEMBER 10, 2016 – Quarterback Josh Dobbs #11 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the game between the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Tennessee Volunteers at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, TN. Photo By Ruth Dudley/Tennessee Athletics

The Battle at Bristol was played in front of 156,990, breaking the FBS record of 115,109 set in 2013 when Michigan hosted Notre Dame.

“Just an unbelievable spectacle,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. “I think the reality hit our players when we came here yesterday for the walk through with all the campers and trailers again this is truly a special evening that we’ll remember for a lifetime.”

Read more: Tennessee beats Virginia Tech 45-24 in record breaking Battle at Bristol

 

Multiple deaths were reported and at least 23 were taken to the hospital in a "very serious" school bus crash in Chattanooga on Nov. 21, 2016. Credit: Chattanooga Fire Department
Multiple deaths were reported and at least 23 were taken to the hospital in a “very serious” school bus crash in Chattanooga on Nov. 21, 2016.
Credit: Chattanooga Fire Department

8: Chattanooga school bus crash leaves 6 children dead, several injured

In November The Chattanooga Police Department says at least six children were killed in Monday afternoon’s school bus crash.

The driver has been arrested and charged with five counts of vehicular homicide among other charges.

Johnthony Walker, 24, faces five counts of vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment and reckless driving.

The bus carrying at least 35 children, from kindergartners to fifth-graders, from Woodmore Elementary School in Chattanooga crashed into a tree, officials said.

Read more: Police: At least 6 dead in Chattanooga school bus crash; driver arrested

9: Sevier County wildfires cause millions in damage, leave 14 dead

Then in November, officials confirmed that 14 people died following the wildfires in Sevier County.

Sidney James Mountain Lodge in Gatlinburg, Tennessee (Credit: Ashley Biggens via WATE ReportIt!)
Sidney James Mountain Lodge in Gatlinburg, Tennessee (Credit: Ashley Biggens via WATE ReportIt!)

Officials with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park say the lack of text notifications during the evacuations in Gatlinburg Monday night was due to a “communication failure” between various agencies caused by disrupted communications systems.

Some residents told WATE 6 On Your Side they didn’t receive the alert on their mobile devices and others said it was broadcast after the fire had reached the city.

TBI Director Mark Gwyn announced two juveniles have been charged with starting the deadly wildfires in Sevier County.

The two were arrested and charged with aggravated arson. They are being held in the Sevier County Juvenile Detention Center.

District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn says it is being considered whether to transfer the case to adult court. Dunn says the two are from Tennessee, but not from Sevier County.

Read more: 13 victims identified in Sevier County Wildfires

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