Washington resident injured in Indiana plane crash
By DAVID HOTLE
Golden Triangle News Service
WABASH, Ind. — One Washington resident was hospitalized with a possible broken leg and another was uninjured when a plane they were passengers in had to make an emergency landing Tuesday after the propeller fell off in flight.
According to a press release from the Wabash County, Ind., Sheriff’s Office, Tracy Swift, 52, of Washington, was flown by Samaritan to Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne, Ind., with a possible broken leg and lacerations. He told The Journal today that he did not have a broken leg. Timothy Swift, 59, of Washington, who was also a passenger in the plane, was not injured. Pilot Rex A. Ott, 62, of Danville, was also uninjured. Sheriff Robert Land reported that the 1963 Beechcraft was “pretty much destroyed” in the landing.
“The pilot did an excellent job,” Tracy Swift said today. “There was a private airstrip about eight miles away, but we knew there was no way we were going to make it. We had to find another place to set down.”
He said that he and his brother Timothy had traveled to Indiana to view a truck Tracy Swift was considering purchasing for his business. During the flight, he said that the engine had gone out and Ott was forced to make an emergency landing by gliding the plane in. Swift said that when the engine went out, oil shot all over the canopy, restricting the view. Wabash County Sheriff Robert Land said that a small fire had started in the engine compartment after the engine went out, but it extinguished itself upon landing.
At about 10:36 a.m. Tuesday, the sheriff’s office received a report of a small aircraft being down near Urbana, Ind. The first report came from the Fort Wayne Air Traffic Control, while the second report came from Timothy Swift. Sheriff’s deputies and Urbana Fire Department personnel located the aircraft about one mile northwest of Urbana, in a soybean field.
Tracy Swift said that Ott had been looking for a field or pasture to land in, but they couldn’t find one. He said that they saw the bean fields.
“We had to use the next-best thing,” he said.
As the incident was unfolding, Tracy Swift said, Ott and Timothy Swift calmly dealt with the problem. He said their confidence and lack of panicking kept him calm during the incident.
As the plane approached the soybean field, Tracy Swift said that Ott had to cross fairly close to a tree line to land in the field. As the plane swung into position to land, he said, there was a danger because the plane was heading toward another tree line. He said the plane had to be swung a certain distance so the wing wouldn’t go into the ground and cause the plane to cartwheel.
“We hit awfully, awfully hard,” he said.
After landing, Timothy helped Tracy out onto the wing. Tracy said that at the time he couldn’t move his leg. After being examined, he said that his leg wasn’t broken. He had some “slight internal damage,” some stitches and a black eye. He is being released from the hospital later today, and he and his wife, Teresa, will drive back to Washington.
“The pilot really knew what he was doing,” Land said. “After the engine blew there was oil all over the windshield, so they couldn’t see, and he had to glide the plane into the field.”
Tracy Swift agreed, saying Ott and Tim Swift had handled the situation very well.
“They knew what to do and how to do it, even though they had never had to do it before,” he said.
Land said that in a case of an emergency landing, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is contacted. He said FAA investigators were on scene Tuesday afternoon and again this morning. The incident remains under investigation.
Tracy Swift said the incident hasn’t put him off flying. He said that he believes the incident was a “fluke” and that he felt nothing like this would ever happen again.
Land said that aircraft accidents of this kind are very rare. He said, in Wabash County, there have only been three or four such accidents in the last 20 years.