Witness to deadly plane crash: ‘You could hear it … the engine, it was cutting out’

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Plane-crash-near-Buckley (3)

(Photo: Pierce County Det. Ed Troyer)

BUCKLEY — A restored World War II-era trainer plane crashed in a wooded area of Buckley, killing the two men aboard Wednesday, authorities said.

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board had to hike into the woods to get to the wreckage. They wrapped up for the night, but will be back Thursday morning to continue their investigation. They want to know what witnesses saw and heard in the moments before the crash.

Connie Van Hoof is used to hearing planes fly over her home. So she knew something was wrong, when one flew by Wednesday afternoon.

“You could hear it with the engine, it was cutting out, definitely cutting out,” she said Wednesday night. “And it was going lower, he was really low. You could tell he was going to go down.”

Pierce County officials say the vintage plane had just taken off from a private air strip a mile away, when the pilots encountered some sort of mechanical problem.

“My husband said it looked like he was trying to bank around,” Van Hoof said. “It looked like they were trying to go back to where they came from.”

“When they weren’t able to make it, they clipped a tree here and went down into woods about 200 feet off the side of the road,” said Pierce County sheriff’s detective Ed Troyer.

Emergency crews responded immediately, but it was too late. The two men died on impact, Troyer said. Their identities weren’t immediately released.

The FAA and NTSB are beginning their investigation, as friends and family in this small community begin the mourning process.

“This plane is a very well-known plane, and these guys are well-known guys who fly vintage aircraft,” said Troyer. “It’s a very unique plane, and a lot of people are going to be affected by this. “

Because the plane went down in an area of thick vegetation, the NTSB said it could be a while before they can remove all the wreckage and start to piece together what happened.

The families of the pilots are asking for privacy.

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1 Comment

  • E. Costello

    Sad accident but totally predictable. Trying to turn with a dead engine on take off inevitably leads to a stall and crash. Couple of old experienced pilots like these two surely must have known better. Only recourse is to drop the nose down to retain flying speed and continue straight ahead and hope there's no brick wall between you and where you hit the ground,