Bluegrass Conspiracy Supplemental – “Company” Drug Plane Down in Jenkinsburg, Georgia

Bluegrass Conspiracy Supplemental – “Company” Drug Plane Down in Jenkinsburg, Georgia

Let's see, what's in my e-mail box this morning? ... Crikey! Someone has sent me a Christmas present ...

"... Drew Thornton, the 40-year-old son of a Paris, Ky., horse farmer, was killed Sept. 11 when he bailed out of a Piper aircraft over Knoxville, Tenn., with 79 pounds of cocaine strapped to his waist. His parachute malfunctioned and he plummeted into a driveway, dying of a fractured spine and a lacerated aorta. ..."

"KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Colombian drug runners seeking revenge for a bungled delivery of $591 million in cocaine may have sabotaged a plane that crashed in Georgia, killing 16 skydivers and the pilot, a drug agent has told a newspaper. ..."

Dec 18, 2012 at 7:27 AM

From M--------
To Alex Constantine

The owners connected to this "EXPLO" company --- two of them are in Kentucky (Winchester and Lexington) and there are also Georgia connections as well as Tennessee.. I suspect the dynamite was used for many purposes, maybe even roads and coal mines.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/03/louisiana-town-evacuated-explosive-materials_n_2229479.html

Several of us believe this Company "underground" is still very much alive and well.

Hope you have a great holiday season!!!!!!!

--------------------------------------------------------------------

From The Advocate, title "Williams parachuted with Thornton in cocaine drop, newspaper reports" published Monday, October 7, 1985

……."Before last week's crash, the plane's owner, David L. Williams, had parachuted with a man who plunged to his death here with 75 pounds of cocaine strapped to his waist when his chute failed, The Knoxville News-Sentinel reported Sunday, quoting an unidentified government drug agent.

The cocaine shipment was to be delivered to Colombians living in Florida, said the agent, who spoke on condition he not be named.

"Those Colombians are upset they didn't get their shipment," the agent said. "They wanted Williams to pay for messing up."

Williams died in the September 29 crash, which the FBI began investigating after the National Transportation Safety Board discovered sugar in the single engine Cessna's fuel tanks.

Neither the FBI nor the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration would confirm the newspaper's report that Williams had parachuted with Andrew C. Thornton II in an attempt to smuggle up to 880 pounds of cocaine……

--------------------------------

Monday, Oct. 7, 1985 Danville, Ky newspaper
Title: "Williams parachuted with Thornton in cocaine drop, newspaper reports"

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Colombian drug runners seeking revenge for a bungled delivery of $591 million in cocaine may have sabotaged a plane that crashed in Georgia, killing 16 skydivers and the pilot, a drug agent has told a newspaper.

Before last week's crash the plane's owner, David L. Williams, had parachuted with a man who plunged to his death here with 75 pounds of cocaine strapped to his waist when his chute failed.

The cocaine shipment was to be delivered to Colombians living in Florida, said the agent who spoke on condition he not be named.

"Those Colombians are upset they didn't get their shipment," the agent said. "They wanted Williams to pay for messing up."

Williams died in the Sept. 29 crash, which the FBI began investigating after the National Transportation Safety Board discovered sugar in the single engine Cessna's fuel tanks.

Neither the FBI nor the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration would confirm the newspaper's report that Williams had parachuted with Andrew C. Thornton II in an attempt to smuggle up to 880 pounds of cocaine.

"I'd like to know their source so I could assign some agents to check it out," said Joe Hardy, an FBI agent in Atlanta investigating the possible sabotage.

"The DEA's investigation into Thornton is continuing. We're still pursuing leads," DEA spokesman Robert Feldkamp said from Washington. "However, none of those leads have linked him to the airplane in Georgia."

The "News-Sentinel reported Williams had parachuted September II with Thornton and left the Knoxville area after hearing Thornton had died when his main chute failed to open.

"The plan was to drop the cocaine in one spot, bail out in another and send the plane into the ocean," the agent told the newspaper.

"When they got on the ground and were safe, they were to contact Thornton's girlfriend, who was waiting there for them," the agent said.

Thornton's body was found in a gravel driveway of a residential Knoxville home with some of the cocaine in a duffel bag around his waist. In his belongings was a key to an airplane that crashed the same morning in North Carolina.

Authorities believe Thornton, a former narcotics officer in Lexington, KY., set his twin-engine Cessna on autopilot and directed it toward its eventual crash site in a wooded area of North Carolina.

The investigation has since turned up more than 200 pounds of cocaine hanging from a parachute in the north Georgia woods and a bundle of Thornton's clothes, pilot's maps, and a photograph of Thornton's plane in a central Georgia pond near where Williams' plane crashed at Jenkinsburg, Ga.

Thornton and Williams both attended the University of Kentucky and had parachuted together, but federal investigators have declined to say how much further their association went.

--------------------------------
San Jose Mercury News (CA)

October 7, 1985

Edition: Morning Final
Section: Front
Page: 3A

AVIATION ACCIDENT DRUG SMUGGLING
COLOMBIA LINK CITED IN CRASH AGENT SAYS OWNER OF PLANE WAS TARGET

Associated Press

Dateline: Knoxville, Tenn. -- Colombian drug smugglers sabotaged a plane that crashed, killing 16 sky divers and the pilot, because the plane's owner botched the delivery of $591 million worth of cocaine, a drug agent told a newspaper in a report published Sunday. David L. Williams, who died when his plane crashed last week in Georgia, had safely parachuted 2 1/2 weeks before on the same flight as a parachutist who fell to his death here with 75 pounds of cocaine strapped to his chest, said the Knoxville News-Sentinel, which quoted an unidentified government drug agent.

The drugs were to be delivered to Colombian smugglers operating in Florida, the newspaper said.

''Those Colombians are upset they didn't get their shipment," the agent said. "They wanted Williams to pay for messing up."

FBI can't confirm report

Joe Hardy, an FBI agent in Atlanta investigating possible sabotage of Williams' single-engine Cessna, told the Associated Press he could not confirm the report.

''I'd like to know their source so I could assign some agents to check it out," Hardy said.

Robert Feldkamp, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration in Washington, said in an interview Sunday that the DEA's investigation had not found a drug-smuggling conspiracy involving Williams and Andrew C. Thornton, who fell to his death here.

Thornton, a former narcotics officer in Lexington, Ky., died Sept. 11 when his main parachute failed and his reserve chute failed to slow him. A key in his belongings had the same serial numbers as a twin-engine Cessna that crashed in North Carolina the same morning. Authorities believe Thornton put the plane on autopilot before bailing out.

200 pounds of cocaine

A few days later, investigators found three duffel bags containing more than 200 pounds of cocaine hanging from a parachute in the north Georgia woods. Markings on the bundles linked it to Thornton's shipment. Williams and Thornton had tossed the bundles, and planned to retrieve them later for delivery to the Colombians, the drug agent said.

The National Transportation Safety Board discovered sugar in the fuel lines of Williams' plane, which was carrying members of a sky diving club, and turned the matter over to the FBI.

Feldkamp said it was still not known why Williams, who was notified before the Sept. 29 crash that the plane's fuel had been contaminated, still allowed it to be flown.

It was previously reported that Thornton and Williams attended the University of Kentucky at the same time and had parachuted together.

Victims' ashes scattered

Authorities found a bundle of clothes, pilot's maps and a photo of Thornton's crashed twin-engine Cessna floating in a pond near Jenkinsburg, Ga., where Williams kept his plane.

The ashes of three of the killed members of the parachuting club were scattered into the wind Saturday at the West Wind Sport Parachute Center in Jenkinsburg as four planes flew in formation to pay tribute to the victims.

The memorial service was held at the West Wind Sport Parachute Center, a favorite gathering place for many of the victims.

''This week has been an ordeal. All we've done is bury people," said David Word, a pilot who flew Saturday.

Copyright (c) 1985 San Jose Mercury News
Record Number: 8502050273
------------------
THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
November 7, 1985

Edition: FINAL
Section: NEWS
Page: 10

Water, `Sugarlike' Substance in Crash Plane Fuel

Associated PressBy Associated Press
Dateline: Atlanta

Atlanta - Tests have shown that sugar, as first suspected, was not present in the fuel of an airplane that crashed September 29 in Butts County, killing a pilot and 16 parachutists who were passengers, a National Transportation Safety Board official said yesterday.

However, the board's air safety investigator Preston Hicks said laboratory tests have determined that there was a substance similar to sugar in the fuel and that the fuel in a part of the plane's engine contained about 36 percent water.

Hicks said that the FBI was brought into the case after a fuel analysis performed by an independent Atlanta area laboratory indicated that sugar and a small amount of water were in the fuel.

The samples were taken for more testing to the Georgia Institute of Technology, where results showed the presence of an undetermined compound chemically similar to sugar.

The engine from the downed Cessna 208 Caravan was taken to an engine tear-down facility. It was discovered that the fluid from the fuel control unit was about 36 percent water.

"There should be no water in the unit," Hicks said. "At what point the level of water will adversely affect the engine - I can't say that."

Most of the FBI investigation has focused on David Williams, an Atlanta real estate developer who owned the plane and was one of the victims.

Williams had sky-dived with Andrew Carter Thornton II, who fell to his death in Knoxville, Tenn., September 11 when a parachute malfunctioned. He was found with 79 pounds of cocaine strapped to his waist.

Associated Press
Copyright 1985 San Francisco Chronicle
Record Number: 53047
---------------------------
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
September 30, 1985 
Section: STATE NEWS 
Edition: The Atlanta Journal 
Page:

D/5 

Parachute club owner was man with passion for sport

BEASLEY, DAVID BAUM, DAN David Beasley and Dan Baum Staff Writers STAFF

JENKINSBURG, Ga. - A teddy bear wearing a toy parachute dangles from the office ceiling of Westwind Sport Parachute Center. Usually it looks down on a shoestring business run by a man wholly devoted to the glamorous and intriguing sport of sky diving.

But Sunday night that man, Jeff Saunders, was dead. The teddy bear stared down on mourning friends and relatives and grim investigators trying to learn why a single-engine airplane crashed as it carried Saunders and fellow jumpers aloft.

Saunders, a 33-year-old former carpenter, bought the parachute club four years ago to pursue his passion full time, said Chuck Garwood, an Army major from Fort McPherson and a member of the club.

"Parachuting was his life. He said there was no other feeling like it," his sister, Linda Argo, said today. "He knew his family worried about him, and he always told us not to worry, that if he died like that he'd die happy."

Saunders, who had been married two years, lived with his wife in nearby Locust Grove and spent almost all his time either jumping or working on the center's three small single-engine planes.

But it was none of those planes that Saunders and the others rode to their deaths; the $750,000 Cessna that crashed was owned by David "Cowboy" Williams, an Atlanta real-estate developer who spent his weekends ferrying jumpers. Williams also died in the crash.

The Westwind center is little more than two house trailers and a couple of sheds on the edge of a 13-acre cow pasture.

Parachutists come to the club "from about 100 miles," said Mark Cook, a fireman from nearby Jackson. "It's a popular spot because it's out of the Atlanta area and safer for jumping."

Ross Scroggs, one of the center's trainers, said about 40 people come here each weekend to hurl themselves out of airplanes in a "free fall," dropping through the air for hundreds - often thousands - of feet until they open their parachutes.

As many as 10 newcomers to the sport also come each weekend to take ground school in the morning and their first jump the same afternoon, he said.

For the residents of nearby Westbury Medical Care facility, watching the parachutists jump was a favorite pastime on Sunday afternoon, said Westbury resident Clara Pitts.

Owning the center was a longtime dream for Saunders, Scroggs said. Saunders discovered sky diving six years ago and worked at the center for a short while, and when the center was put on the block, Saunders bought it.

But it was not easy.

"It took 24 hours a day seven days a week to keep the place going," Scroggs said.

"He would never have been rich off it, but he was involved in it enough to make it his profession," said Betsy Powell, a sky diver who used to work for Saunders. "It's a shame it took his life."

Scroggs described Saunders as a "good ol' country boy who would give you the shirt off his back."

He said Saunders was easy to work with, but a stickler for safety. "He had rules you follow or else," Scroggs said of Saunders' way of managing the parachute center.

The Jenkinsburg jumpers were paying Williams $12 each, since his going rate was $1 per thousand feet of altitude, Scroggs said. All 16 were experienced jumpers, heading for 12,000 feet to make their jumps, he said.

And because his was a new plane, everyone wanted to ride in it.

"It was a novelty item," he said.

--------------------------------------------------------------
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution

October 1, 1985 
Section: STATE NEWS 
Edition: The Atlanta Journal 
Page: D/8



Victims of plane crash shared a common love

Mike Christensen Staff Writer STAFF

Some were students or recent college graduates, others computer programmers and technicians. There was a restaurant owner and a professor, a lawyer and a machinery importer. The parachutists and pilot killed in Sunday's single-engine plane crash in Jenkinsburg came from different backgrounds but had a common love - the thrill and peace of sky diving.

Short profiles given on Ann Boland, Carol Gordon, Douglas M. Holmes, Rod Howell, Steve B. Hunter, R. Josh Hutcheson, Harry C. Lane Jr., Dr. Taylor Little, Joseph Anthony Lyvers, Mark H. Pruitt, T. Jeffrey Saunders, Michael J. Schobert, Andrew Milton Williams, David Williams, Steven Herbert Wilson, Paul Yin, and Carl Zee. Some were students or recent college graduates, others computer programmers and technicians. There was a restaurant owner and a professor, a lawyer and a machinery importer. The parachutists and pilot killed in Sunday's single-engine plane crash in Jenkinsburg came from different backgrounds but had a common love - the thrill and peace of sky diving.

Ann Boland, 22, of Milledgeville, an engineer for the federal Environmental Protection Agency. She graduated from Georgia Tech on Sept. 7, with a degree in chemical engineering, and joined the federal agency's Air, Pesticides and Toxics Division, according to her brother Kevin Boland.

While at Georgia Tech, Miss Boland had joined the school's sky-diving team. She had been parachuting for about two years.

Carol Gordon, 28, of Marietta, supervisor of customer services for Fotomat Corp.'s Atlanta region. According to members of the sky-diving club, she worked for the group on weekends.

A native of the Akron, Ohio, suburb of Cuyahoga Falls, where her father is an engineer, she had been with Fotomat for the last three years, according to company officials.

Douglas M. Holmes, 21, a Georgia Tech chemistry student and part-time employee of Glide Path International, a parachute firm. A Deland, Fla., native, he had started to sky-dive three years ago, was president of Tech's sky-diving club and a member of the school parachuting team.

Rod Howell, 29, of Marietta, a technical specialist with ISC Systems Corp., a financial computer company. He had been with the firm since 1981 and transferred to Atlanta from his home in Oregon two years ago, according to Chuck Taylor, the company's field service manager.

When he wasn't sky-diving, Howell devoted much of his free time to the Naval Air Reserve, where he had recently been promoted to chief petty officer with a Supply Corps unit in Atlanta.

Howell, described as a quiet, meticulous person, had been sky-diving for the past two or three years, and had recently started flying lessons as well.

Steve B. Hunter, 33, of Atlanta, a computer programmer for AT&T Communications.

A native of Duval County, Fla., and a Georgia State graduate, Hunter had worked for AT&T since the spring of 1982.

R. Josh Hutcheson, 31, of Atlanta, a salesman for Fulton Supply Co., an Atlanta tool company. His sales manager, Bill Smith, described Hutcheson as a "free spirit who liked motorcycles, sky diving and photography."

Hutcheson once told Smith that sky diving was "the greatest sensation - no noise, just falling free." Hutcheson, who was divorced, had one daughter.

Harry C. Lane Jr., 44, of Lithonia, a Southern Bell cable repair technician who had been with the company for 20 years.

Lane had been a parachutist in the Army during the 1960s and had returned to it as a sport about 1 1/2 years ago. In that time, he had made more than 600 jumps. He had recently been certified to make tandem jumps with a passenger strapped to his chest.

He was married and the father of two children, a son and daughter in their 20s.

Dr. Taylor Little, 37, a marketing professor at Georgia State University who had been parachuting for "six or seven years," according to a friend.

Little had taught at Georgia State since January, according to Dr. Wilbur Way man, chairman of the school's marketing department. It was Little's first job since earning his doctorate from the University of Alabama in December 1984. Dr. Morris Mayer at Alabama described Little as "brilliant, one of the smartest we've ever had in our program. He had everything going for him." Mayer said Little had survived an earlier plane crash during a jump near Tuscaloosa about two years ago. "I remember asking him, `Why do you take the risk?' And he said, `Because I love it. That (the crash) is not going to stop me.' "

Joseph Anthony Lyvers, 39, and the father of three, had been jumping since 1970, according to his next-door neighbor, Phil Hardy.

Hardy said Lyvers was general manager of a plastics company until eight months ago, when he quit to start a real estate business. His business mostly involved buying old homes and renovating them for resale.

Hardy described Lyvers as a "good neighbor and a very self-determined person who enjoyed parachuting because he said it relaxed him. He enjoyed it as a sport just like some people enjoy hunting and fishing."

Mark H. Pruitt, 24, of Atlanta, a recent honor graduate of the University of Florida College of Law in Gainesville, who had become a permanent associate of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan in Atlanta three weeks ago. He had been a summer law clerk with the Atlanta law firm, and was concentrating on corporate law.

Pruitt, a 1982 graduate of Emory University, enjoyed scuba diving as well as sky diving. He had made more than 100 jumps, according to his brother-in-law.

T. Jeffrey Saunders, 33, of Locust Grove, a former carpenter who bought the Westwind Sport Parachute Center four years ago. "Parachuting was his life. He said there was no other feeling like it," his sister, Linda Argo, said. "He knew his family worried about him, and he always told us not to worry, that if he died like that he'd die happy."

Saunders discovered sky diving six years ago, according to friends, and worked at the Westwind center for a short while. When the center was put on the block, Saunders bought it. He spent almost all his time either jumping or working on the center's planes. But it was none of those planes that Saunders and the others rode to their deaths; the $750,000 Cessna that crashed was owned by David "Cowboy" Williams, an Atlanta real estate developer who spent his weekends ferrying jumpers.

Michael J. Schobert, 21, of Atlanta, an electrical engineering student at Georgia Tech and roommate of Douglas M. Holmes, another victim.

According to his mother, Schobert found peace and quiet in midair, and was looking for friends and camaraderie when he joined the Sport Parachute Club at Georgia Tech. He had joined the club in the spring of 1982, and had achieved the rank of master jumper.

"We explained our fears," his mother, Dottie Schobert, said, "but we don't keep our kids down. He was very careful. We respected him."

Schobert actually was afraid of heights, according to his mother, but not of jumping out of planes. Last December, Schobert overcame his fear of heights to help two young girls down a mountainside after they became trapped on a ridge. He was lauded for his bravery, but never told his parents about the incident, which occurred during a jumping trip in Arizona, his mother said.

A week ago, he had started a job with Loral Information Display Systems, an Atlanta military contractor, doing computer-aid engineering.

Andrew Milton Williams, of Columbia, Mo., a customer service representative with IBM, was in Atlanta to start a company training program. He had been with the corporation for eight years.

David Williams, 35, of Atlanta, owner of the plane that crashed and a partner in Midstates Group Inc., a 3-year-old Buckhead property development firm.

A helicopter pilot in Vietnam, Williams moved south from Cincinnati, Ohio, where his parents still live. He graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in engineering. He moved to Atlanta about four or five years ago after working for the Kroger Co. at its Southeast regional office at Charlotte, N.C.

Steven Herbert Wilson, 35, of Atlanta, the pilot of the downed plane. Wilson was a former Federal Aviation Administration pilot whose job was to fly planes into airports to inspect navigational aids, according to FAA spokesman Jack Barker.

According to the FAA, Wilson was authorized to fly everything from commercial jets to helicopters. While he was based with the FAA in Atlanta, he and several other pilots were accused by the FAA of doing acrobatic stunts in FAA planes. He took the case to the National Transportation Safety Board, which overturned the FAA disciplinary action because evidence was found to be unsubstantial, Barker said. Wilson, who was divorced and had no children, eventually transferred to FAA offices in Alaska, where he continued to work as an inspecting pilot. He then left the federal government and flew for a time with several small Western airlines, according to his father, the Rev. Herbert Wilson of Atla

The elder Wilson said his son was first hired as a technician for the FAA, but that FAA officials suggested he become a pilot because of his skill with airplanes. His father said Wilson was a stickler for safety.

"He would never have taken that plane out if he had known there was a problem with the fuel," Rev. Wilson said Monday afternoon. "He wouldn't have stepped foot on that plane."

Last weekend was only the second time he had flown a group from the Westwind Sport Parachute Center, said his father.

Wilson was a disabled veteran who was wounded by mortar shells in Vietnam, his father said.

Paul Yin, 41, of Dunwoody, owner of Yin's Chinese Restaurant on Chamblee-Dunwoody Road. He had been in this country for more than a decade and had owned his restaurant for six or seven years, an employee said. He was described as an easygoing, hardworking person and the father of two young boys, 5 and 8.

An employee said Yin had been sky-diving almost a year and would go every weekend if the weather was good.

Carl Zee, 33, of Rotterdam, The Netherlands, a glass company executive and former member of The Netherlands' national parachuting team.

Zee's family had developed the Hoaf Glass Kilns Co., which specializes in glass-bending equipment. Last year he joined the Lowe Glass Co. of Atlanta as general manager of a new subsidiary - Lo-Glas -to import and sell glass processing equipment, according to Lowe executive Lee Peters. He had been living in Norcross since arriving in the United States.

Zee was a veteran of more than 2,000 parachute jumps and had competed around the world with the Dutch team, Peters said.

Also contributing were staff writers Cathy Dolman and Steve Harvey.
Copyright 1985, 1998 The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution

----------
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution

October 4, 1985 
Section: LOCAL NEWS 
Edition: The Atlanta Constitution 
Page: A/1



Link between owner of sky diving plane, drug carrier probed


Bill Montgomery and Kevin Sack Staff Writers STAFF

David Lee Williams, a "self-made" Buckhead property developer, and Andrew Carter Thornton II, a former police narcotics detective, were friends with a mutual love of the sport of sky diving. And both were Kentucky natives, though five years apart in age. Lawmen from three federal agencies are investigating whether "Drew" Thornton and "Cowboy" Williams are linked in their deaths as well.

Williams, 35, died when his Cessna 280 Caravan crashed Sunday in Butts County, killing him, 15 other members of a parachuting club, and the pilot. National Transportation Safety Board investigators found evidence of sugar in the plane's fuel tank.

Thornton, the 40-year-old son of a Paris, Ky., horse farmer, was killed Sept. 11 when he bailed out of a Piper aircraft over Knoxville, Tenn., with 79 pounds of cocaine strapped to his waist. His parachute malfunctioned and he plummeted into a driveway, dying of a fractured spine and a lacerated aorta.

Thornton's Piper, set on automatic pilot, crashed into a mountainside in adjoining North Carolina.

Thornton and Williams definitely knew each other, acquaintances of the Atlanta man said. What is less clear is how well.

Patt Valley, an Atlanta bookkeeper who helped Williams run a weekend business ferrying parachutists aboard the Cessna he called "Cowboy's Caravan," said the two were close friends. The men frequently parachuted together, she said, and they spent time at summer parachute meets, known as "boogies."

The two had been "best friends" for around five years, she said.

When Thornton fell to his death, Williams was "shocked," Ms. Valley said. "It was the normal reaction to losing a friend," she said.

But Williams' brother Jeffrey, a property manager in David Williams' Midstates Group Inc., countered that his brother and Thornton were only acquaintances.

"He was an acquaintance through sky diving, that's the only common thread," said the brother. "They saw each other maybe three or four times a year at meets."

Jeffrey Williams said reports that the two met at the University of Kentucky were false. David Williams attended the university for only six months before he was drafted around 1969, he said.

Thornton received a law degree from the university in 1976. He worked his way through college as a police officer in Lexington, including three years on the narcotics squad.

Most sport parachutists are acquainted or know of each other, said Ross Scroggs, a trainer for the Westwind Sport Parachute Center in Jenkinsburg, near the site of Sunday's fatal crash.

"We all kind of knew Drew, especially your senior jumpers," Scroggs said, but he personally knew Thornton only casually.

"I don't know how well David knew (Thornton); I personally couldn't tell you what he looked like."

FBI spokesman Ed Horne said agents are attempting to determine how close the men's relationship was, and they also will probe the apparent contamination of the Cessna's fuel tank with sugar.

The FBI on Thursday assigned between 15 and 20 of the approximately 100 agents in its Atlanta office to its investigation of the Sunday crash, FBI spokesman Joe Hardy said. Hardy would not say whether the 35-year-old Williams was suspected of being involved in Thornton's drug activities.

"We asked the FBI to become involved because sugar shouldn't be in jet fuel," said Ira Furman, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board.

Furman said investigators found evidence of sugar in a fuel filter, but have not yet determined the amount or whether it was added deliberately. Sugar would clog the plane's system and ultimately could cause engine failure, he said.

"Sugar would have an adverse effect on the engine's performance," Furman said.

Horne said agents also were looking for any connection between Sunday's plane crash and the discovery last month in a Butts County pond of a bag of clothes, maps, dried fruit and a pilot's manual traced to Thornton's plane.

Authorities believe the bag was dumped over Butts County, which is on a direct aerial line with Fannin County, Ga., where a parachute with three duffel bags of cocaine was discovered hanging from a tree in the Chattahoochee National Forest, and Knoxville, where Thornton's parachute malfunctioned.

Horne said the FBI has discovered no evidence yet that Thornton's aircraft either took off or landed in Butts County. A spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration refused any comment on the matter.

The Federal Aviation Administration earlier said Williams ignored a warning that his aircraft's fuel was contaminated before he took off Sunday from DeKalb-Peachtree Airport for the fatal jump near the Butts County community of Jenkinsburg.

A mechanic discovered Friday that the plane's fuel was "the color of black coffee," rather than clear. Sugar contamination would turn the fuel to a dark color, investigators say.
photo: David L. Williams, who died with 16 others in a plane crash, is shown in free fall above Atlanta last summer during jump to the Georgia Tech campus

Copyright 1985, 1998 The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution

-----------------
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution

November 6, 1985 
Section: STATE NEWS 
Edition: The Atlanta Journal 
Page: C/1 



Sky-diver crash sabotage may be ruled out 


Kevin Sack Staff Writer STAFF

The FBI has received preliminary laboratory results indicating that a Sept. 29 plane crash in Butts County may not have been caused by sabotage, according to sources who said the investigation is nearly complete. The sources said the FBI's tests of fuel taken from the Cessna 208 Caravan have yet to reveal the presence of sugar, although earlier National Transportation Safety Board tests found the contaminant in relatively large amounts.

After being informed of the NTSB test results on Oct. 2, the FBI opened an intensive investigation into the possible sabotage of the plane. With only a few interviews and tests left to be conducted, that investigation has nearly run its course, according to one source.

"There's still some remaining work to be done," said the source. "But within the next few weeks, barring unforeseen developments or the emergence of some new information, it's going to come to a conclusion. There's no credible evidence that it was sabotage."

The source said the FBI has not determined why the plane nose-dived into a Jenkinsburg farm shortly after takeoff, killing the pilot and 16 sky divers. He said that conclusion can only be made by the NTSB, which has nearly completed its own field investigation of the crash.

NTSB officials in Atlanta and in Washington said Tuesday they have received no official laboratory report from the FBI and that they would therefore not comment on the bureau's findings. NTSB spokesman Ira Furman said it may be severalmonths before the board issues a finding on the cause of the crash.

The FBI has conducted hundreds of interviews and has utilized a federal grand jury during the five weeks since the crash. Most of the investigation has focused on David "Cowboy" Williams, an Atlanta real estate developer who owned the plane and used it on weekends to ferry sky divers above their drop zones. Williams died in the crash.

Long assuming that the plane might have been sabotaged, agents have asked questions about Williams' romances, business dealings, sky diving competitors, and about his relationship with reputed cocaine smuggler Andrew Carter Thornton II.

Thornton parachuted to his death in Knoxville, Tenn., early on the morning of Sept. 11 when his parachute apparently did not open fully. He was found with 79 pounds of cocaine strapped to his waist, and an additional 220 pounds of cocaine that was parachuted into North Georgia has been linked to Thornton.

A federal grand jury in Knoxville, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and local Tennessee police are continuing to investigate Thornton's death and drug activities. Despite the FBI's new theory about the Butts County plane crash, several sources said that authorities still are probing possible connections between Williams and Thornton, who were friends who sky-dived together occasionally.

Sources said the FBI's lab scientists in Washington found no sucrose, the chemical name for sugar, in fuel samples taken both from Williams' plane and the 55-gallon drums at the Westwind Sport Parachute Center in Jenkinsburg, where Williams last fueled his plane.

The FBI tests did find excess water in both the plane's fuel and the fuel in the drums, but investigators have no reason to believe that the water was added to the fuel deliberately, one source said. It is possible, the source said, that the water accumulated in the fuel drums through leaks and seepage during the rainy summer.

The NTSB's tests of fuel taken from the plane's right tank showed an average of 5 percent water in each sample, according to NTSB spokesman Furman. The wate r solution included 2 percent sucrose, Furman said.

"I have not seen the FBI report," said Jay Golden, chief of the NTSB's Atlanta field division. "If there was conversation (between the FBI and the NTSB) hither and yon, well, that's possible. But that's conversation; it's not a report."

Georgia Tech spokesman Charles Harmon said Tuesday that the NTSB fuel analysis was conducted by scientists at the Georgia Tech Research Institute. The NTSB's Golden would only say the fuel analysis was conducted by an independent Atlanta laboratory because the NTSB does not have its own chemical laboratories.

"Certainly the FBI has a very competent laboratory," Golden said. "If there's an inconsistency, we're certainly going to ask questions. If there is an inconsistency, and I'll emphasize the if, then it's going to have to be resolved."

The fuel samples tested by the FBI were different from those tested by the NTSB, but the samples were taken from the same places - the plane and the Westwind canisters.
Photo: WRECKAGE OF PLANE: Lab test shortly after Sept. 29 crash indicated sugar in the fuel; FBI's analysis reportedly does not/ Johnny Crawford

Copyright 1985, 1998 The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
------------------------------------
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
September 16, 1987 
Section: STATE NEWS 
Edition: The Atlanta Journal 
Page: E/4 



More lawsuits likely in 1985 plane crash that killed 16 parachutists 


Gail Epstein Staff Writer STAFF

Plane crash on Sept. 29, 1985, in Butts County, which killed 16 parachutists and their pilot has generated from 12 to 15 lawsuits. With two-year statute of limitations for wrongful-death claims looming, at least three more suits are expected to be filed within next two weeks, according to Atlanta lawyer John Howard, who filed latest suit last week in U.S. District Court in Atlanta on behalf of Karel A.M. Zee, resident of The Netherlands who was father of victim Karel Frederick Zee. On Sept. 29, 1985, 16 parachutists and their pilot were killed when their plane crashed shortly after takeoff from an airstrip in rural Butts County. A federal investigation determined the crash likely was caused by contaminated fuel.

The accident spawned an FBI investigation into possible sabotage, a related probe into cocaine trafficking by a friend of the plane's owner, and a report critical of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for failing to ground the plane before the fatal flight.

It also has resulted in between 12 and 15 lawsuits. With the two-year statute of limitations for "wrongful-death" claims looming, at least three more suits are expected to be filed within the next two weeks, according to Atlanta lawyer John Howard, an aviation law specialist representing relatives of six victims.

Howard filed the latest suit last week in U.S. District Court in Atlanta on behalf of Karel A.M. Zee, a resident of The Netherlands who was the father of victim Karel Frederick Zee.

Zee is seeking $2 million in damages from the estates of the plane's owner, Atlanta real estate developer David "Cowboy" Williams, and its pilot, Steven Herbert Wilson, contending that they were "negligent in the maintenance and operation of the aircraft."

The suit also names as defendants Young Petroleum Products Inc. of Griffin, the distributor that provided the fuel in the Cessna Caravan when it crashed, and William M. Wilson's Sons Inc., manufacturer of a portable gas pump used to refuel the Cessna immediately before the fatal flight.

The suit says Young Petroleum was negligent in "the dispensing and storage of the fuel" and that the Wilson's Sons pump was "not suitable for the dispensing of aviation turbine fuel."

A National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) investigation concluded that the plane was overloaded and flying with fuel that contained one-third water at the time of the crash. The fuel contamination caused the engine to fail, the NTSB said.

The investigation also determined that rainwater could have leaked into the 55-gallon drums that stored the fuel. The drums were kept upright at the West Wind Sport Parachute Center in Jenkinsburg, where the crash occurred, investigators found.

Williams had been told that his plane's fuel system was contaminated on at least two occasions before the fatal flight, yet the plane stayed in use, the NTSB report concluded.

But it also said that the accident might have been prevented had an FAA inspector who examined the craft two days before it crashed followed administrative procedure and grounded the plane because of contaminated fuel that he observed.

Howard said all of the plaintiffs have filed administrative claims against the government stemming from the NTSB report. Only after those claims are exhausted can the government be added as a defendant in the lawsuits, he said.

The sabotage investigation, prompted by early, incorrect reports that the fuel also was contaminated with sugar, focused on the romances and business dealings of Williams. Questions also were raised about Williams' friendship with Andrew Carter Thornton II, a reputed cocaine smuggler who parachuted to his death in Knoxville, Tenn., on Sept. 11, 1985.

A federal grand jury in Knoxville, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and local Tennessee police investigated Thornton's death and drug activities but no indictments have been issued.

The investigations examined possible connections between Thornton, who had $20 million worth of cocaine strapped to his waist when he died, and Williams, who was a friend and fellow sky diver. An additional 220 pounds of cocaine that were parachuted into North Georgia have been linked to Thornton.

Copyright 1987, 1998 The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution

-------------------------------
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
November 10, 1987 
Section: NATIONAL NEWS 
Edition: The Atlanta Journal 
Page: A/2 



Two charged in Tenn. drug case involving parachutist killed in jump


EBLEN, TOM Tom Eblen Staff Writer STAFF

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - More than two years after Andrew Thornton parachuted to his death here with 75 pounds of cocaine strapped to his waist, federal authorities Monday charged two people with conspiring to help him smuggle 880 pounds of the drug from Colombia to Tennessee.

Rebecca Sharp of Lexington, Ky., whom acquaintances of Thornton have identified as his girlfriend, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Robert Murrian and pleaded not guilty to all six counts of an indictment. Also named in the indictment was Ruben Soto. U.S. Attorney John Gill said Soto is a fugitive and would provide no other information about him.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - More than two years after Andrew Thornton parachuted to his death here with 75 pounds of cocaine strapped to his waist, federal authorities Monday charged two people with conspiring to help him smuggle 880 pounds of the drug from Colombia to Tennessee.

Rebecca Sharp of Lexington, Ky., whom acquaintances of Thornton have identified as his girlfriend, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Robert Murrian and pleaded not guilty to all six counts of an indictment.

Ms. Sharp, 32, was released after her parents posted a $50,000 property bond. Murrian scheduled a trial Jan. 6 in U.S. District Court in Knoxville.

Also named in the indictment was Ruben Soto. U.S. Attorney John Gill said Soto is a fugitive and would provide no other information about him.

The indictment was issued by a federal grand jury May 21, but it was kept secret for nearly six months because authorities had hoped to arrest Soto.

The indictment marked the first time authorities have acknowledged that Thornton's scheme allegedly involved the late David "Cowboy" Williams, a former Atlanta developer. Williams, 35, had been a friend and sky-diving partner of Thornton, 40, a former Lexington narcotics officer and the son of a wealthy Kentucky horse breeder.

Gill declined to say whether authorities think the smuggling scheme was linked to the Sept. 29, 1985, plane crash near Jenkinsburg, Ga., that killed Williams, 15 other sky divers and the pilot.

The plane owned by Williams crashed 18 days after Thornton's death Sept. 11, 1985. The investigation showed the plane's fuel was contaminated with water, but sabotage never was proved.

The indictment also acknowledged for the first time that another person, who was not identified, allegedly parachuted into Knoxville with Thornton.

Ms. Sharp is charged with six counts involving conspiracy to import and possess cocaine with intent to distribute. If convicted on all counts, she could face a maximum of 70 years in prison and fines totaling $780,000, Gill said.

Soto was charged with conspiracy and aiding and abetting those attempting to import and distribute cocaine. He could receive a maximum sentence of 20 years and fines of $260,000 if convicted on the two counts.

The indictment said Thornton, Williams, Soto, Ms. Sharp and other unidentified people began planning the conspiracy in July 1985. On Sept. 9, Thornton and another person, who wasn't identified, flew an airplane from near Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Colombia to pick up about 880 pounds of cocaine, the indictment said.

Thornton and the other person planned to drop the cocaine by parachute at a site near Jenkinsburg, and Williams and Soto waited at the site Sept. 10 to pick up the cocaine, the indictment alleged.

However, Thornton was unable to make the drop, apparently because he believed federal agents were aware of the plan. Instead, he dropped several bags of cocaine at various locations in North Georgia. Williams and Soto learned that Thornton had changed his plans and went looking for the cocaine, the indictment said.

In the weeks after Thornton's death, authorities found at least five duffel bags containing at least 370 pounds of cocaine in the Georgia mountains. One bag was found by a black bear, which ate some and died of "acute cocaine intoxication," a state medical examiner said.

The indictment said Thornton had arranged for Ms. Sharp to drive from Lexington to Knoxville and pick up him, the plane's other passenger and the cocaine.

Thornton's parachute apparently malfunctioned after he jumped from his plane. He landed on his back in the driveway of a suburban south Knoxville home and died of a lacerated aorta. In addition to the cocaine, police found a pistol, two knives, night-vision goggles and $4,500 cash.

After learning of Thornton's death, the indictment said, Ms. Sharp picked up the other person in Knoxville and drove back to Lexington, where she allegedly took guns and papers from Thornton's apartment "to obstruct the investigation" by authorities.

Ms. Sharp also was charged with possessing about 75 pounds of cocaine.

Gill declined to discuss the indictment or say whether others involved in the alleged conspiracy have been identified. He said the investigation is continuing, and more indictments could result.

The last eight paragraphs did not appear in the final edition.

  • Just think if our country’s leaders were able to approach drug use from a practical
    rational medical perspective. That would mean acknowledging the beneficial
    medical uses of black market drugs. Heroin addicts pushed for the right to
    have their doctors prescribe heroin to them. This is written up in the Toronto
    Globe & Mail newspaper. It makes good medical sense if you think it through.
    Lyle Courtsal http://www.3mpub.com http://www.narconews.com