The sign at the end of the private road ushering customers to the private air field, reads “Steve’s Aircraft.” The field dotted with small, private hangars and tie-down spaces, sits next door to Sams Valley’s recreational spot for sky divers.Mid-day on August 3, shortly following take-off from the airfield familiarly referred to as Beagle Sky Ranch, a Piper Pacer drifted off the runway, circled low above nearby oaks, and struck jutting branches that felled the aircraft. The 26-year-old Lakeview resident at the controls, remained conscious, and crawled out of the burning plane just before it became fully engulfed.
The owner/pilot, who gave her name only as “Grace,” permitted photos, but declined to speak to the media. She also refused an ambulance or medical services.
“She’s okay, as far as her health goes,” said JCFD 3 Battalion Chief Rod Edwards. “But, she’s still a bit shocked by what happened. She accepted a glass of water, and a chance to sit in the shade, but didn’t want to hang around here any length of time.”
Grace told Edwards she’d owned the plane for about a year.
A black plume of smoke filled the sky, alarming area residents who needed to stay away for their own safety. “There’s burning fuel here,” fire crews cautioned.
Personnel from State and Jackson County Fire Departments cordoned off the area, and hosed nearby brush to prevent spread of flames.
“There are lots of planes tied down here,” said FD 3 Public Information Officer, Don Hickman. “They have defensible space around their hangars, but still we had to put out some grass fires, and we don’t want anything to spread.”
Fire Marshall, Hugh Holden, was on hand to render any assistance the team of workers needed. “We know what caused the fire—the plane crash started it,” Holden said. “The FTA and FAA in Portland will become involved in the investigation of the actual crash.”
By F. C. Blake
Of the Independent