A parachutist who fell to his death last month in Tennessee with $20 million in cocaine strapped to his waist may have been part of a drug-smuggling conspiracy involving parachutists in Georgia, sources said yesterday.

Also, The Macon Telegraph & News reported, a Georgia plane crash Sunday that killed 17 people was caused by sabotage in revenge for a cocaine theft.

Sources, speaking on condition they not be identified, said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is probing whether parachutists were being used to smuggle cocaine when Andrew C. Thornton II, 40, fell to his death in a suburb of Knoxville last month.

Thornton had parachuted with 75 pounds of cocaine strapped to his waist. His main parachute and reserve malfunctioned.

Federal authorities have acknowledged that they are investigating links between Thornton and David Lee Williams, 35, an Atlanta real-estate developer who died Sunday with 16 other people on a skydiving outing in Butts County, Ga., about 50 miles south of Atlanta. Williams owned the plane in which they crashed. An FBI agent said Thornton and Williams were acquaintances.

The FBI entered the investigation after the National Transportation Safety Board confirmed that sugar and water were in the fuel system of Williams' plane.

"It was a revenge-type thing. It was sabotage. Somebody was targeted for termination," the Macon newspaper quoted an unidentified source as saying.

Meanwhile, in Bay Minette, Ala., fire aboard a twin-engine airplane loaded with 1,300 pounds of cocaine apparently forced the pilot to abandon the craft at a rural airport about 2 a.m., federal agents said.