Janesville49.4°

Pilot escapes crashed plane uninjured

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GINA R. HEINE
August 13, 2009
— Authorities are investigating why a crop duster never made it off the ground at takeoff Wednesday morning, causing the single-engine biplane to plow into a rural Rock County cornfield.

The pilot, Selwyn Hale Ellis, 47, of Dacula, Ga., exited the plane uninjured before it started on fire, Evansville Fire Chief Mike Halvensleben said.


The crash happened at about 9:42 a.m. as the yellow crop duster was taking off from north to south on a grass strip between two corn fields at the northwest corner of Pleasant Prairie and Kyle roads, he said.


“He was just trying to take off from just loading the plane and wasn’t able to … get enough power to get off. It may have been a mechanical problem, I’m not sure,” he said shortly after the crash. “He just wasn’t able to get enough power to lift off.”


When the crop duster reached the end of the strip, it hit the pavement of Kyle Road, possibly getting a slight lift off the lip of the road. The plane left tire tracks across part of the blacktop before entering the cornfield, taking down the top few feet of corn stalks as it came to rest in the field.


The pilot climbed out of the plane when it stopped and was walking to the road when the plane “went up in flames,” Halvensleben said.


The plane was destroyed, though the fire was mainly in the front engine area, he said.


It was loaded with about 294 gallons of fungicide, he said.


“There’s no danger to anybody in the community,” he said.


The pilot had been spraying chemicals all morning before the crash, he said.


Rock County Emergency Management was called because of the chemicals involved. The Federal Aviation Administration in Milwaukee and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources were called to investigate.


The pilot declined to talk to the media.



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