‘It’s so pretty up here. It looks like heaven,’ mom texted before fatal Smokies plane crash

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) – Families are in mourning after what they are calling a freak accident.

Park officials say the bodies of three victims have now been recovered from the wreckage of a small plane, which was found in some rugged terrain Tuesday in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. David Starling, Hunter Starling and Kim Smith died in the plane crash on Monday.

RELATED: 3 dead after plane crashes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

“It’s hard. My mom was my best friend to say the least ,and I didn’t really get to say goodbye,” said Garrett Smith, son of Kim Smith.

Garrett Smith (WATE)
Garrett Smith (WATE)

Garrett Smith flew to Tennessee after hearing his mom was in a plane crash. He cannot believe that she is suddenly gone.

“She is one in a million. Her heart was bigger than anything I had ever known. If she could help someone out, she was there,” said Smith.

On Monday, he thought it was strange that his mom did not text him to say she landed. He did not talk to her right before or during the flight, but she did send a photo of the view outside the plane to other family members.

“She took a picture of the clouds and said, ‘It’s so pretty up here. It looks like Heaven.’” said Smith.

Smith said the photo haunts him because it was like the Lord was sending a signal to everybody. He said it is hard to think that his mom is up there right now.

Family members tell WATE that David Starling, Kim Smith and Hunter Starling left on the plane at noon on Monday. WATE-TV photo.
Family members tell WATE that David Starling, Kim Smith and Hunter Starling left on the plane at noon on Monday. (WATE)

Other family members were at the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge airport waiting for the plane to arrive. They called Smith after learning the plane crashed. Smith was in Florida as the time.

“I kind of lost it. I was trying to find any glimpse of hope,” said Smith.

Smith said David Starling is an experienced pilot. Starling previously flew for the Air Force. That is why Smith believes this crash is a freak accident. Smith said the plane was on its decent when it crashed.

“I have flown with David and I trust him 110 percent. I feel like this [was] God’s plan,” said Smith.

Smith said he will remember nothing but his mom’s huge smile and her huge heart. He said his mom and Starling had been dating since July. Starling made his mom incredibly happy and Hunter Starling was one of the sweetest boys he knew, said Smith.

Family in Gatlinburg this week were traveling back home to Florida on Wednesday.

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