By WSOCTV.com News Staff
CHARLOTTE — A single-engine, private plane crashed into the Catawba River and was left upside down as emergency crews arrived Friday morning east of Rock Hill.
Chopper 9 Skyzoom spotted the plane sitting in shallow water just after 10:30 a.m. The plane didn’t look to be significantly damaged, but it was upside down with the wings partially submerged in the water. The wooden propeller was broken.
By about 10:45 a.m., first responders with the York County Sheriff’s Office arrived and began searching the area for anybody who was in the plane. The York County Sheriff’s Office said a pilot and passenger were found and were reported to be OK.
The Federal Aviation Administration told Channel 9 the plane was an Aeronca 7DC, and it crashed around 8:50 a.m.
According to the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office, the plane was rented. The company that owns the plane sent a representative to the scene.
A nearby resident said he saw one of the occupants emerge from the plane after it made the emergency landing.
“He said, ‘Yeah, I was on the plane,” said Melvin Threatt. “He said, ‘I didn’t get hurt,’ but he was wet.”
Threatt said the person told him the motor stopped before the plane went down.
Greg McElroy told Channel 9′s Tina Terry that he was inside his home in Sun City when the plane landed in the nearby river.
“I saw you guys’ chopper flying around, and I said, ‘I wonder what’s going on up there,’ and I’ve been working out here but I didn’t hear anything,” McElroy said.
It’s not clear what led to the crash at this time. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, according to the FAA.
Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile said he was thankful there weren’t any serious injuries, adding that the conditions along the river helped prevent a worse outcome.
McElroy shared the sentiment and was grateful that no one was injured.
“To walk away from any plane crash is fantastic, you just don’t want to have anything bad happen to people like that,” McElroy said.
No easy feat
Fire officials tapped into their training to get the aircraft out of the water.
“There is no exact science to flipping an airplane back over onto its wheels, so we did our best,” said Chief Chris Miller, Indian Land Fire Rescue.
They inflated some boats and put them under the wings so the aircraft could float down the river.
Miller said firefighters needed to get it to a safer location before they could pull it out.
“The guys just walked it down the river,” Miller said. “The current wasn’t too strong today, so we had enough water to just be able to walk it down.”
They guided it 1,700 yards downstream before taking the wings off so it would be easier to transport once out of the river.
The plane was manufactured in 1946.