Pilot survives fiery plane crash
By RICHARD LUKEN
Iola firefighters Tim Thyer, left, and Ryan Sell extinguish flames from the wreckage of a single-engine plane that crashed just north of the Allen County Airport runway Wednesday afternoon. The pilot, Mark Sherman of Chandler, Ariz., was taken to a Wichita hospital for back injuries he suffered in the crash.
An Arizona man suffered a broken back but escaped other serious injuries Wednesday afternoon after the small plane he was piloting crashed at Allen County Airport.
Mark Sherman, 56, Chandler, Ariz., survived the crash after his plane, a single-engine Lancair IV Propjet, lost power while he was attempting to land.
According to the Kansas Highway Patrol, Sherman was approaching the airport from the south. Because another airplane was already on the runway, Sherman circled above until it was clear.
Upon his second approach, Sherman’s plane began to lose power. Problem was, the second plane was still on the runway.
Sherman’s plane came down about 200 feet northeast of the runway shortly after 1:30.
The plane skidded along the rough terrain for about 50 yards until its wheels broke off, followed by its tail section.
Sherri DeSpain, a flight instructor at Star-Bright Flight School, which is stationed at the airport, heard Sherman’s approach as the plane lost power, followed a few seconds later by a large boom.
She raced to the wreckage in her utility vehicle when she saw Sherman had climbed from the plane and fallen to the ground.
By then a small fire had started, “and the entire cabin smelled like gasoline,” she said.
DeSpain searched briefly for a fire extinguisher — pausing long enough to turn off the plane’s electronics, shut off its engine’s fuel supply and remove an oxygen tank from the cabin — before helping Sherman to her vehicle to get away from the wreckage.
The fire quickly spread, engulfing the plane, and burning an area of nearby dried grass.
Firefighters were on the scene minutes later. The fire burned for several minutes afterward because of the small amount of fuel that remained in the plane’s tanks.
Mitch Garner, Allen County Airport superintendent, told the Register that the airport remained closed today until investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration could begin their investigation. He hoped to reopen the facility later today.
In addition to the Iola Fire Department, crews from the Allen County Sheriff’s Department, Iola Police Department and Allen County Emergency Medical Service were on hand to treat Sherman.
Sherman was treated at Allen County Hospital and then tranferred to a hospital in Wichita for a cracked vertebra.