KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Joe Clayton, the cofounder of Clayton Automobiles and Clayton Homes, died in Monday night’s helicopter crash in the Tennessee River. His brother James (Jim) Clayton, cofounder of Clayton Homes, survived the crash along with their grandson, Flynt Griffin, and their friend, John (Jay) McBride.
“I am devastated and completely heartbroken by the loss of my wonderful brother, Joe,” Jim Clayton said. “Joe and I were as close as two brothers can be, and, as only siblings, we have supported each other since growing up together on a farm in West Tennessee and as business partners for decades. My thoughts and concerns are totally for Joe’s family right now.”
“I am very grateful to the emergency personnel who responded so quickly and professionally and to the caring couple on a nearby boat who gave assistance,” Jim Clayton said.
Knoxville police said James Clayton, John McBride and Flynt Griffin survived the crash and were rescued by a nearby pontoon boat.
The Knoxville Fire Department said the crash occurred around 7:42 p.m. Monday just behind a home in the Sequoyah Hills neighborhood on Lakeview Drive.
KFD originally said the three who escaped were taken to a hospital, but later said that none of the three needed medical treatment and denied transportation.
The helicopter that crashed into the Tennessee River is connected to First Bank. FAA records show the aircraft belongs to CFA Holdings, Inc., a company that state records show is registered to the same address as a First Bank branch in downtown Knoxville. At one point, James L. Clayton was listed as the registered agent of CFA Holdings, Inc. in state records.
Shortly before 8 p.m., dispatch said crews entered the water near the US Marine Corp base off of Alcoa Highway to search for the fourth passenger.
Just after 10:30 p.m., KFD announced that the body of the fourth passenger had been recovered and pronounced dead.
Officials identified the aircraft as a Eurocopter EC-130.
The Knox County Sheriff’s Office, Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, Knox County Rescue Squad, and Knoxville Fire Department could be seen scouring the area on boat and by air.
The FAA said the National Transportation Safety Board will determine the probable cause of the accident.
The investigation is ongoing.