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Plane lucky — 2 survive South Mountain crash

DRAPER — A New Mexico couple survived with only minor injuries Monday after their plane crashed near South Mountain.

The twin-engine Cessna 310 was traveling from Boise to Las Cruces, N.M., when it hit the side of the mountain near 15700 South and 200 East just after 1:30 p.m.

The 65-year-old pilot and his 44-year-old wife were taken to Alta View Hospital and were reported in stable condition late Monday. The pilot suffered a cut to his head and his wife had a cut on her hand.

Their names were not released Monday.

The plane was still on the mountainside, overlooking the neighborhood below, as an investigator from the FAA inspected the wreckage Monday night. The cause of the crash had yet to be determined.

Unified Fire Authority Capt. Michael Jensen said the pilot reportedly was planning to stop in Spanish Fork for fuel.

The pilot apparently was flying too low near the heavily clouded mountain and tried to pull up at the last minute after spotting the ground, Jensen said.

The plane's belly hit the mountain. The aircraft then tumbled over backward on the steep mountainside and came to rest upside down with the nose dug into the hillside. If not for that, Jensen said, the plane might have slid all the way down the mountain to the houses below.

Numerous residents in the neighborhood heard the aircraft before it crashed.

"I was in the bathroom and I heard an ungodly low-flying plane," said Steve Booras. "I've never heard a plane come that low before."

"We've heard planes that were low before, but not that low," concurred Ron Jansen.

Chantel Hagen and Michelle Beins said they could hear the plane's engine making different noises as if it were either sputtering or trying to rev up.

"It was like it buzzed the house," said resident Dave Smart. "Some said it shook their houses."

Scott Romair and Bill Holyfield were two of the first people to reach the wreckage. They climbed the steep and slippery slopes in the thick clouds with almost zero visibility after they heard the plane crash.

When he got close to the wreckage, Holyfield said he could hear the couple screaming, "We're here!" even though he couldn't see them. At that point, he said, they were still stuck in the plane.

By the time Holyfield found the aircraft, the couple had gotten out. The man was sitting by the door and the woman was walking around, Holyfield said.

From briefly talking to the couple, Holyfield said they apparently tried to get fuel at Salt Lake Airport No. 2 but couldn't for some reason and were going to try again in Utah County. When they got too close to the ground on the cloud-covered mountain they tried to pull up, but it was too late.

The pilot was able to radio for help after the crash. Another resident who hiked up to the crash site hiked back down until he was able to use his cell phone to call Salt Lake County Search and Rescue officials and help guide them to the wreck, Jensen said.

Rescue crews reached the crash site just before 3 p.m. They put the pilot on a stretcher as a precaution and carried him down the mountain. His wife was able to hike down the mountain on her own with assistance from rescue crews.

Jensen said the treacherous terrain, poor visibility and slippery ground made the rescue difficult. At one point, the fire department used a horn from one of its engines as a fog horn to let those on the mountain know they were headed in the right direction.

Once they reached emergency vehicles, the couple was taken to two waiting ambulances. Neither said a word, but both had looks of shock and distress.

The man was transported to the hospital in fair condition and his wife in good condition, Jensen said.


E-mail: preavy@desnews.com