Surprise Landing

BUCKHANNON – The pilot of a small plane that crashed just outside Buckhannon Saturday night walked away from the accident uninjured.

James Meadows, 30, of Hendersonville, Va., was flying above Buckhannon just after 5:30 p.m. when he experienced engine failure and deployed a parachute system that was built into his aircraft, a Cirrus SR 22.

As the plane went down, it struck the top of a black Chevrolet Silverado before crashing into the middle of the Brushy Fork Road between the Jenkins Ford and Buckhannon Toyota car dealerships near the Route 33 intersection, deputies with the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office said.

The driver of the truck, 42-year-old Billy King, of Buckhannon, was on his way to work when the plane skimmed the top of his vehicle and knocked off his rearview mirror, he said.

Other than a sore shoulder, King was also uninjured in the incident. Neither Meadows nor King were carrying any passengers at the time the accident occurred.

Cpl. Jason Queen with the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office said both men were very lucky. Meadows’ plane was equipped with a Cirrus Airframe Parachute System, or CAPS, that is actually attached to the plane and slows its descent and, hence, impact upon landing.

“He (Meadows, the pilot) was coming in from another out-of-state airport when he had engine failure,” said Queen, who is also an airplane pilot. “Fortunately, when that occurred, he was still at an elevation that was high enough for him to deploy the parachute. When you reach a certain elevation it won’t deploy anymore.”

“That parachute system saved his life,” Queen said.

King, the driver of the truck, said he initially thought the sound of the plane striking the top of the truck was a power line pole falling on his vehicle.

“I was traveling down through here, and I heard a ‘pow,’ and I looked beside me and there was a plane,” King said, as he watched emergency officials scramble to clear the scene as best they could following the crash. “I must have an angel somewhere.”

King’s wife, Delvia King, said she had been watching television in her pajamas when she received a phone call from her husband who informed her his truck had been hit by an airplane.

“He called me and he was like, ‘A plane landed on my truck,’ and I was like, ‘A plane landed on your truck?'” Delvia King said. “I had to have him repeat it several times.”

“I just thank almighty God he’s all right,” she added. “It scared me within an inch of my life.”

Kathleen Bergen, a spokeswoman with the Federal Aviation Administration, said the agency was still investigating the crash as of Sunday afternoon.

“No injuries reported to the FAA and no ground damage reported,” she wrote in an email to The Inter-Mountain. “The FAA is investigating. The aircraft registration is N450TAX.”, a live flight tracking website, indicates Meadows, the pilot, had taken off at Doweling Springs Airpark in Mount Joy/Marietta, Pa., at 3:16 p.m. and had been scheduled to arrive at the Upshur Regional Airport at 5:17 p.m.

At about 5:30 p.m., however, Daniel Woody, a salesman for Buckhannon Toyota, was standing just outside the dealership when he heard a noise that he said hounded like “Ka-pow!” Woody later realized it was Meadows’ parachute system deploying.

“It sounded like a car wreck, but when I looked up, I saw a plane directly above the dealership,” Woody said Saturday night, “and I thought, ‘an airplane is going to land on our lot or on the building, and I just took off running.”

Woody saw Meadows climb out of the plane and when he and another Buckhannon Toyota employee asked the pilot if he was all right, Meadows said yes.

More than two hours after the plane crash, the orange parachute that reportedly saved Meadows’ life lay crumpled on the edge of the Buckhannon Toyota lot, as officials with the Buckhannon Fire Department, sheriff’s office and West Virginia State Police continued to block off the area.

Traffic was rerouted for several hours following the crash, while officials waited to hear from the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board. BFD firefighters eventually moved the aircraft out of the road and onto private property pending FAA investigation and inspection.

No further details about the cause of the crash were available as of presstime.

Contact Katie Kuba by email at