UPDATE: Men survive landing in gravel pit near Larch Mountain

Pilot did ‘a heck of a job,’ according to fire official

By John Branton and Tom Vogt

Published:

 

A Camas man was recovering in a hospital Tuesday evening, several hours after landing his small plane in a tiny gravel pit in the Larch Mountain area in far-east Clark County.

Steven L. Emerson, 54, was listed in satisfactory condition at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, a nursing supervisor said.

“The pilot did a heck of a job landing,” said Chief Scott Koehler with East County Fire & Rescue. “That was really the only carved-out place for miles. Everything else was hillside.”

He added: “Out of all those trees he could have put it down in, he found the gravel pit. They were lucky to be alive.”

The name of the other man in the four-seat, single-engine plane was not immediately available.

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office responded to the crash, but did not investigate because the Federal Aviation Administration is in charge, said Sgt. Scott Schanaker, the sheriff’s spokesman. Also, officials with fire departments are barred by federal law from disclosing victim’s names when they provide medical care.

Fire officials said the men’s injuries did not appear life-threatening.

However, the men were treated as trauma patients, said Ben Peeler, North Country Emergency Medical Services chief. When a plane comes down abruptly, an internal injury might not be immediately apparent, he said.

The plane, a Grumman American AA-5, was heavily damaged. Firefighters used foam to make sure a small fuel leak didn’t ignite.

Rescuers rushed to the area near Larch Corrections Center and the Four Corners area about 10:50 a.m. Tuesday, after learning that the plane had clipped treetops and barely missed a small power line before landing in the gravel pit. It was unclear why the plane was forced down.

Firefighters extricated the men from the crumpled wreckage. Paramedics with North Country Emergency Medical Services took them by ambulance to the medical center.

Emerson declined an interview request by The Columbian on Tuesday evening, a nursing supervisor said.

The airplane, which was registered to Emerson, was manufactured in 1975, according to FAA data.

AA-5s, some called Travelers, were geared to the personal-aviation market for touring and training.

With four seats, they were “instantly popular,” according to http://www.airliners.net.

With 150-horsepower Lycoming engines, the Travelers cruise at 127 knots, faster than a similar popular plane, the Cessna 172. Travelers can climb to a service ceiling of 13,800 feet, the website says.

The site where the plane landed is used as a shooting range east of Hockinson, on L1400 Road.

The Federal Aviation Administration is leading the investigation, Peeler said.