One person died and a second was critically injured Wednesday when an aircraft crashed while attempting to land at Pearson Field after experiencing mechanical problems.
Hannibal Woodward, 42, of Vancouver, believed to be the pilot, was in critical condition late Wednesday night at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center.
The crash occurred about 4:07 p.m. Witnesses said the aircraft, a home-built craft owned by Woodward, had just taken off from Pearson and was 200 to 300 feet off the ground when its engine started sputtering. The plane circled the field in what looked like an attempt to land and crashed in a grassy area between the runway and Fort Vancouver.
Kevin Stromberg, a firefighter-paramedic with the Vancouver Fire Department, said crews arrived to find two men injured and bystanders attempting CPR on one of them.
“Despite rescue efforts from both bystanders and our crews, the person succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene,” Stromberg said.
The name of the man who died was not released.
“The thing dropped 300 feet from me,” said Jim Hunt of Vancouver, who was on a walk near the airfield. He rushed to the plane.
“I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know if it was going to explode,” Hunt said. “We literally ripped the plane apart,” he said of his efforts with another bystander to free the two.
“I just want the family to know we were trying as hard as we could to get the people out.”
He said a man who identified himself as an EMT gave CPR to the man who died.
The airplane was a Kitfox IV, a fixed-wing single engine, two-seater plane built and deemed safe to fly in 1996. It has a Bombardier engine. A source at the field told The Columbian that Woodward is a skilled, experienced local pilot, and that the aircraft was safe. Woodward carries a second-class airman medical certificate, which is required to fly commercial non-airline planes.
On his Facebook profile, Woodward says of flying: “Fly like a bird, even more than paragliding this is being a bird.” In addition to being a pilot, Woodward said he is also an artist and a farmer.
Bystanders reported that smoke, but no flames, were coming from the wreckage of the plane.
Pearson Field, which opened in 1905 as an airport for dirigibles, says on its website that it is the oldest continuous operating airport in the United States. Its runway is 3,200 feet long and 60 feet wide. It serves general aviation traffic and is owned by the city of Vancouver.
Zachary Kaufman contributed to this report.