By HEATHER TOMLINSON, CJ Staff Writer Commonwealth Journal
Joyce and Leonard Crabtree, along with their daughter, Vickie Jones, had grown used to small planes coming and going from a small airstrip near their homes in southwest Pulaski County.
But on Monday, the family knew something had gone wrong when a small plane — identified by officials as a 1974 Piper Warrior — flew low over their homes, located on Jacksboro Road in Bronston and adjacent to the Boss Airfield.
“I was sitting on the porch,” said Leonard Crabtree, who was canning green beans with his wife when the crash happened at around 4 p.m. Monday. “I watched it take off and heard it crash.
“I heard the crash, saw smoke come up, and I ran out there,” Leonard Crabtree added. “ ... I wanted to get out there and help.”
Vickie Jones, who lives on the same property, said the plane flew low enough it caused several items in her home to rattle as it passed overhead and barely cleared the trees behind her home.
“Usually those small planes aren’t that loud, but that sounded like a jet plane,” said Jones. “I knew it was too low because I could feel it.”
The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department stated the plane was carrying pilot Gary D. McGlothin, 54, of Lexington, and passenger Charles A. Jackson, 55, of Winchester, Ky., when it went down in a field adjacent to the airfield.
Airfield owner Gary Boss said he didn’t see the plane take off, but he confirmed it left from his airstrip.
Leonard Crabtree said he rushed down Jacksboro Road to aid the victims, and he said both of them were out of the plane when he arrived at the scene.
“I helped one of them get up,” said Leonard Crabtree, who noted that they were “bloodied” and appeared to be seriously injured.
“One asked where they were and what happened,” Leonard Crabtree later added. “One said they hit a tree.”
The men were able to get clear of the aircraft before fire erupted in the small plane.
“They were hurt real bad,” said Leonard Crabtree.
Leonard and Joyce Crabtree’s great-grandson, Jeremiah Calder, 12, had been woken up by the plane, and he rushed to the site with Leonard Crabtree.
“I thought it wouldn’t be possible for them to survive,” said Calder, who noted he felt “nauseated” when he realized what had happened. “ ... I heard it and I thought it was thunder right beside the house.”
Meanwhile, Joyce Crabtree called 911 from their home.
“I started praying and just thought ‘Lord, help them,’” said Joyce Crabtree.
Joyce Crabtree also called Jones, who was still in her home, and Jones said she knew exactly what she was calling about.
“She said ‘Guess what?’” said Jones. “I said ‘I know, Mom, a plane crashed.’
“I like to watch the planes come and go from the airfield, but today, it was just too close for comfort,” added Jones.
Firefighters with Bronston Volunteer Fire Department rushed to the scene to put the flames out, and they were soon joined by the Tateville Volunteer Fire Department.
Pulaski County Public Safety Director Tiger Robinson, who also responded to the scene, said the fire was contained, but “It just continued a slow burn.
“We had to cool it down before we could get in there and cut the fuel line,” said Robinson.
It took around an hour for firefighters to completely douse the flames.
Robinson said the plane can carry 24 gallons of fuel in each wing, and witnesses on the scene stated the plan may have been carrying around 40 gallons when it went down.
McGlothin and Jackson were treated on the scene by Somerset-Pulaski County EMS and airlifted individually by helicopters to the University of Kentucky Medical Center.
A spokesperson with UK said McGlothin and Jackson were both listed in fair condition as of around 7:45 p.m. Monday.
Officials with the sheriff’s department said it appeared McGlothin was trying to conduct a soft take-off from the Boss Airfield “when the plane failed to achieve enough altitude for take-off before it crash-landed.”
According to the Federal Aviation Administration registry database, the plane appears to be registered to William Knapp Jr., of Dry Ridge in Grant County. McGlothin and Jackson are also listed as co-owners of the plane.
FAA records indicate McGlothin’s pilot certification was up to date.
Officials with the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were notified of the crash and will investigate the cause of the accident. Sgt. Troy McLin, with the sheriff’s department, said they were expected to be at the scene of the crash today.