Plane Crash Survivors “Very Fortunate”

By Beacon Staff

HELENA (AP) – A series of fortunate events helped three people from Washington state escape a plane crash in the Flathead National Forest with no major injuries, Powell County Sheriff Scott Howard said Tuesday.

For starters, the single-engine, 1952 fixed-wing plane that went down Monday night ended up in a meadow surrounded by rough terrain – on an old airstrip that hasn’t been used for decades.

Also, another aircraft flying near the crash site, about 20 miles from Gibson Reservoir, heard the pilot’s radioed calls for help and circled the area, later giving the coordinates of the meadow to authorities, Howard said.

“Everyone was very fortunate,” he said. “The pilot did a good job, and so did the plane above him who gave us the long(itude) and lat(itude).”

The plane that went down was headed from Washington to Wisconsin for an air show. Although its three occupants were “beat up and banged up,” the aircraft remained completely intact, Howard said.

Edward Watson III, the owner of the aircraft, was onboard with his daughter and a pilot, whose names have not been released, Howard said.

The plane crashed in an area accessible only by air or horseback. Just before dusk, an air ambulance was dispatched from Kalispell and transported Watson and his daughter to a hospital, where they were briefly treated and released, Howard said. The two spent the night in a Kalispell hotel.

The pilot, along with U.S. Forest Service workers, stayed with the aircraft Monday night, he said.

Two forest workers stationed a couple of miles from the crash site responded to the scene. A search and rescue team from Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls also was dispatched, but was called off when it was confirmed that the three occupants were not seriously injured, Howard said.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the crash.

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