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Airplane crashes in Martinsburg

June 14, 1999

Plane crashBy BRYN MICKLE / Staff Writer, Martinsburg

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A Virginia man walked away unscathed Monday afternoon after the experimental plane he was flying crashed behind an airplane hangar at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport.

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John Morgan Prendergast, 59, of Sterling, Va., was flying a single-engine plane with a top-mounted propeller about 3:30 p.m. Monday when the engine cut out near the Sino Swearingen production facility at the airport, police said.

The crash happened shortly before two bus loads of Taiwanese dignitaries arrived for a tour of the Sino Swearingen plant. The downed plane was a private craft and was not connected to operations at the plant.

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West Virginia State Police said Prendergast turned the plane back toward the airport runway and tried to land in a field, but was forced to land the plane on its belly after the landing gear failed to come down.

The plane skidded on the wet grass but flipped on its side when the right wing clipped a bale of hay, causing the plane to twist.

The impact snapped the right wing and sent pieces of the wing and canopy across the field.

The two-seat aircraft came to a stop a few hundred feet away from the runway fence, resting on its side with its left wing sticking into the air.

Inspecting his damaged plane shortly after the crash, Prendergast said he had no comment on his emergency landing.

A fire crew from the nearby West Virginia Air National Guard 167th Airlift Wing responded to the crash, but the plane did not catch fire.

Police said Prendergast told them he had been keeping the plane at Eastern Regional Airport for about six months and had experienced engine problems during a previous flight.

"He said he had made alterations and was taking it up for a circling flight," Trooper D.M. Olack said.

Prendergast made his flight shortly after a rain storm passed through the area, but police said weather conditions were not a factor in the crash.

The wreckage of the plane was cordoned off with yellow police tape Monday afternoon to allow Federal Aviation Administration investigators to examine an unaltered scene when they arrive today.

The FAA will decide if any charges will be filed in the crash, Olack said.

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