UPDATE: Cook Medical VP, daughter killed in Tennessee plane crash

Bill Gibbons, vice president of engineering at Cook Medical
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Two people found dead at the site of a plane crash in eastern Tennessee have an Indiana connection.

Bill Gibbons, vice president of engineering at Cook Medical, along with his daughter were in a plane crash on Buffalo Mountain, according to a Cook Medical spokesperson. Gibbons' daughter, Abbey, was a sophomore at Bloomington South, according to a district spokesperson.

The Monroe County Community School Corporation issued a statement Saturday, saying:

The Monroe County Community School Corporation and the Bloomington High School South community are deeply saddened by the loss of beloved South student, Abbey Gibbons, and her father, Bill Gibbons. Our deepest sympathies go out to the family, friends, and all those affected by this tragedy. Our thoughts are with them as we remember and grieve the loss of a wonderful, caring, and exceptional student.

Bloomington High School South Principal Mark Fletcher expressed, "We are all in shock and saddened, to say the least, with the news of the Gibbons' tragic accident.  Such fantastic people who were thought so highly of by all. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.”

A district spokesperson further said the district's Director of Student Services would be coordinating with a team of school social workers in addition to faculty at Bloomington South to provide extra counseling support for students who need it.

The president of Cook Medical and Cook Group struggled to find the words to explain impact Bill Gibbons had on the global company and the pride he had for his children and family.

Pete Yonkman explained, "He changed our product and changed people’s lives."

As the vice president of engineering, Gibbons was responsible for the development and oversight of the 4,000 different medical devices Cook manufactures and sells around the world.

According to Yonkman, Gibbons "...had his fingerprints on all those products," and he was "passionate about inventing devices that save lives. He felt that responsibility very deeply."

The effort to determine what exactly went wrong with Gibbons' plane has been the work of multiple state and federal agencies across Tennessee. Emergency response and forensic teams traveled by ATV and foot to the site of the crash, and spent hours sifting through debris.

The search and rescue leader for Washington County EMS in Tennessee, Lee Peace, said several pieces of wreckage were partially buried.

"The biggest piece of the plane that we saw was the tail section, the last maybe three feet of the tail," Peace said. "Nothing else was really recognizable."

Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley said the victims were ejected from the aircraft. The bodies were found near the head of Ramsey Creek Friday night at about 11pm, about three hours after investigators believe the plane crashed. A crew in a Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter found the wreckage using infrared technology. Then, Unicoi County emergency response workers secured the scene.

NTSB investigators said the plane left Knoxville, Tenn., for Bloomington and, according to FlightAware.com, the four-seat plane lost its signal around 7:20 p.m. The Gibbons were on their way home from a Fall Break trip.

Yonkman said Gibbons often talked of his children.

"He loved them so much. He was so proud of them. He was a father that was fun to be around."

And, Yonkman explained, coworkers around the world looked up to Gibbons.

"He was passionate about people, passionate about work, passionate about family, passionate about the environment."

Gibbons received his pilot's license less than two years ago. The plane he was flying was his own private plane.

The director of the Unicoi County Emergency Management Agency said weather may have played a role in the crash, but no definitive cause has been released. In fact, investigators say it could take six months to a year to determine the exact cause.

"They're collecting data from the structure of the aircraft, they're looking to see what may have caused it," explained Nes Lovotch, director of the Washington County/Johnson City Emergency Management Agency. "If they can collect enough evidence from the bodies that were there, they can tell whether it was a heart attack, but in this case they weren't able to do that."

One NTSB investigator on-scene said smaller aircraft like the one Gibbons was flying don't carry black boxes, so his agency will look at other technology in the aircraft that can help indicate what happened.