The pilot of a plane that crashed at the Smoketown Airport Wednesday morning is being treated for serious burns at Crozer-Chester Medical Center. As of Wednesday evening, he remained in critical condition.
This was the third crash of an experimental aircraft at the airport this year.
“Oh no, I thought. Not again,” said Melvin Glick, Smoketown Airport’s manager. “That’s three too many.”
Glick actually witnessed the crash.
“When I saw it, I saw the right wing drop and then the whole bottom of the aircraft just dropped to the ground,” he said.
The aircraft was registered to Joseph Bender, 74, of Gordonville.
Witnesses said the single-engine plane was taxiing in the process of taking off, when it veered off of the runway and crashed into a nearby hangar and caught fire.
“A tanker truck from that water service actually got here first,” said Chief Matt Bono of the Witmer Volunteer Fire Company. “They saw what happened and then they used water off their tanker, along with several bystanders with fire extinguishers to help keep the fire in-check until the fire company arrived.”
Bono said the quick action of the Glick’s Water Service employees should be commended.
“It actually saved the building and possibly saved the patient’s life,” he said.
The pilot was able to climb out of the plane, but suffered a head injury and serious burns. A medical helicopter airlifted him to Crozer-Chester.
The three crashes at Smoketown this year are raising concerns about the safety of experimental aircraft.
“There’s hundreds of those flying and doing well,” Glick said. “It’s just we haven’t had very good success here.”
The FAA and NTSB are investigating the crash.
Investigators do not have a cause just yet, but say a preliminary report on the crash will be released in about a week.