Green Cove Springs, Fla.-- Action News is digging into E. Hoke Smith's aviation history trying to find some answer as to why his chopper crashed.
So far, everything we've discovered just paints a clearer picture of his expertise as a pilot. Hoke Smith was no stranger to the skies. He was a decorated war veteran and an experienced pilot, having more than 50 years under his belt. "It's just emotional for everybody," said his son Derrick Smith.
Derrick says it was Smith's love of flying that led him to start his business, SK Jets. Smith's desire to help others led him to medical missions for the Mayo Clinic. "He felt it was an important thing," said Smith.
But what's troubling the family now, is what went wrong in the sky. Action News checked both the NTSB and FAA websites for information on Smith's flying record. All we could find were his certifications, including one as an instructor. We also found the plane Smith was flying was due for an air worthiness test by the end of the week.
Smith's son says his father has been in crashes before. "He's walked away from several other crashes in Vietnam," said Smith.
He even described how Smith landed a helicopter safely several years ago that could've been disastrous.
"The tail rotor broke. When it breaks, the helicopter usually crashes. He managed to land so softly, the passengers didn't even notice something was wrong," said Smith.
Right now, investigators and Smith's family are trying to figure out what went wrong on this last flight.
"To me, it must've been catastrophic that happened that he wasn't able to land," said Smith.
Smith's son says his dad's hobby was spoiling his granddaughter. Smith and his wife also just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on December 23rd.