A training workshop for regional emergency responders was interrupted with a real-life incident Friday afternoon, when a single-engine plane carrying three men crashed just short of the runway near Canaan Valley Resort.
All three victims were flown via helicopter to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, said Tucker County emergency officials at the scene.
The pilot of the Cessna 172 suffered critical injuries and had to be extricated from the plane wreckage, while the other two victims got out on their own and were walking around after the crash, said Robert Metzger, a captain with Canaan Valley Volunteer Fire Department.
Officials did not know where the men were from or the extent of their injuries.
The crash occurred at 12:40 p.m. when the plane was trying to land at Windwood Fly-In Resort near Davis, although officials were not yet able to determine exactly what caused the plane to go down about a quarter of a mile short of the airstrip. They also weren’t able to determine the plane’s owner, its origin or its destination.
Sandy Green, chief of the Canaan Valley VFD and the incident commander, said officials from the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash. The site was in a wooded area that is part of the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Several vacation homes are located nearby.
Metzger was the first emergency official to respond to the scene, and he said fuel was leaking from the aircraft.
“We used foam to wet down the area to prevent any chance of fire,” he said, adding the next step was to bring in extrication tools.
Metzger said the pilot was doing “touch and go,” which is a term for landing at a runway and taking off again.
“It’s practice for pilots,” he said.
Regional emergency workers were preparing Friday for their own practice, a monthly session called TACTICs, which stands for Tucker All Hazards Conference Training in Canaan. Metzger said he was at the fire station, preparing for a TACTICs class that he will teach this weekend, when the emergency call came in for the crash.
“That’s why I got here so fast,” he said, adding emergency responders from Tucker and Davis fire departments assisted at the crash site, along with the West Virginia State Police and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Metzger said everyone worked together to assess the incident and make sure the victims were cared for properly.
“All in all, I think it went very smoothly,” Metzger said, in terms of the emergency response. “It’s not every day that we do aircraft.”
Green called the responders’ efforts “tremendous” and noted everyone’s training kicked in just the way it should.
“It was, as always in this type of situation, chaotic for a few minutes, until we got our hands around it,” Green said. “It was a total team effort.”
He noted he wanted to thank everyone who helped out, including Darla Stemple, director of the Tucker County Office of Emergency Management and the 911 center; Hollis Lipscomb of the Canaan Valley VFD, who was in charge of the extrication; and Richard Zane, deputy refuge manager for the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
Tucker County emergency services spokesman Chris Stadelman said luckily, there haven’t been many aircraft crashes in the Canaan Valley area. He recalled a plane crash at Windwood about 15 years ago, as well as a fatal helicopter crash that occurred in Tucker County on Oct. 30, 2010.
“That was the last major incident that I can remember,” Stadelman said of the helicopter crash, which killed an electric lineman.