Pilot and Passenger Walk Away from Devastating Harnett Crash
Posted March 19, 1999 6:00 a.m. EST
LILLINGTON — A pilot and passenger are lucky to be alive after their single-engine plane crashed in rural Harnett County. Both of them literally walked away from the destruction.
"The front part of the aircraft is broken off, the tail section is broken off, the wings are broken off and it's in a leaning position," says pilot Mike Williamson.
Take one look at the mangled wreckage of the Cessna 152, and it is hard to believe both people on board walked away from the crash.
Williamson was flying the plane from Florence, South Carolina to Franklin County when he lost lights, then power.
"And I refused to put the airplane down on the road, and there were homes, and I said 'no, I'm not going to put an airplane down there,' so I looked for an open area," Williamson said.
Williamson was flying by flashlight, five miles from the nearest airport and losing altitude fast. He decided to put the plane down in a field near Bunn Level.
"I banked the airplane, turned it slightly so if there were trees it would go through the trees," Williamson said. "And I did that, and I think that's what saved me right now."
Emergency crews waited on the ground after the distress call went out. Gary Pope says rescuers feared the worst.
"It's hard to believe that two people did walk away from this airplane crash," he said. "It's totally destroyed."
The pilot and passenger made it to Byrd Mill Road after walking for more than an hour in the swampy, wooded area.
The man and woman finally flagged down one of more than a dozen troopers, deputies and rescue workers who were combing the area looking for them.
"They were just waving at me when I got up there," said Deputy George Robinson. "I had my blue lights on while I was looking."
Robinson said the victims' wounds were not life threatening. "The man got a bad cut over his left eye. The female had some bruised knees. Other than that, they were okay," Robinson said.
The pilot and passenger were disoriented and exhausted. They told rescue workers they were lucky to be alive.
The victims were treated and released from the hospital.
Despite his ordeal, Williamson still wants to fly, and his 11-year-old daughter still wants to learn Dad's hobby.
"This is not going to stop me from flying," Williamson said. "I'm going to continue to fly, fly, fly."
The FAA is investigating the crash. The pilot has been flying as a hobby since 1986.