ROSEBURG — The two-airplane crash in Idaho that injured two Roseburg men and killed a 2-year-old boy occurred without warning, one of the pilots said Monday.
"I didn't see the other plane or hear them on the radio, and they didn't see us," said Chris Jordan, 39, of Roseburg. "I knew from reading, people don't survive midair collisions. I thought I was going to die."
Jordan was landing a single-engine Piper Tri-Pacer on Friday at the Johnson Creek Airport, a back-country airstrip near Yellow Pine in western Idaho. A twin-engine Beechcraft Baron also heading for a landing came down on top of Jordan's plane about 60 feet in the air, according to the Valley County Sheriff's Office.The other pilot, Ronald Beitel, 48, of Salt Lake City, was seriously injured, and his young son was killed.
By Monday, Jordan and his passenger, Dan Sprague, 54, of Roseburg, had returned home, along with their friend, Tom Weiss, a fellow pilot who participated in the annual fly-in that attracted about 100 small-plane enthusiasts from across the country.
In interviews with The News-Review, Jordan, Sprague, Weiss and Weiss' 18-year-old son, Davis Weiss, described the crash and the aftermath.
"My first thought was, 'It's a slim chance anybody survives a midair crash,' " said Tom Weiss, who was flying in front of Jordan and Sprague's aircraft.
This year was the third Weiss had flown to Johnson Creek for the fly-in. This was Jordan and Sprague's first time there. The Roseburg fliers had been there since June 26.
Positioned in front of the two colliding aircraft, Tom and Davis Weiss didn't witness the impact but heard over the radio a man yelling that two planes were landing at the same time.
By the time the Weisses turned around, they saw two ant trails of people hurrying toward the wreckage. Tom Weiss landed and taxied toward the crash, while Davis Weiss jumped out before the plane stopped and ran toward the scene.
As Davis Weiss approached, he saw Jordan hobbling away from the wreckage. People were pulling Sprague from the wrecked airplane. "I've seen plane crashes before, but I've never witnessed a midair crash. It was pretty unbelievable they survived," Davis Weiss said.
Around the Beechraft Baron, people were yelling that there was a child in the plane. Davis Weiss helped carry the conscious 2-year-old boy from the wreckage, while others tended to Beitel.
A professional firefighter with the Winston-Dillard Fire District, Tom Weiss evaluated all four victims before calling for an air ambulance.
Beitel was flown by helicopter to Saint Alfonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise and was initially listed in serious condition. A hospital spokeswoman said Monday no more condition updates would be provided. Authorities declined to release the name of the boy who died.
Jordan suffered a sprained wrist, broken teeth and a split lip. Tom Weiss flew him to a hospital in McCall for treatment.
"I knew I was doing pretty good for everything I went through," Jordan said.
Davis Weiss stayed with Jordan at the hospital, while Tom Weiss went back for Sprague.
Jordan was discharged from the hospital about 15 minutes before Sprague arrived. Sprague was treated for a lower leg fracture. Sprague said Monday his leg is sore, and he is resting.
The National Transportation Safety Board is conducting an investigation into the crash.
The Associated Press reported that the airport has been the site of numerous crashes, including accidents in 1996, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2010, according to a review of NTSB records.
Tom Weiss said the impact points on the planes indicated that Beitel's landing gear had rammed into Jordan's right wing.
Roseburg Regional Airport Director Mike Danielle, who was not in Idaho but talked with Sprague after the accident, told The News-Review Monday that Jordan was flying a high-wing airplane, so he could not have seen an airplane above him. The other plane was a low-wing plane, so the pilot could not see an aircraft below him.