Plane Crash Lands in Lehi
Plane crashes on I-15 in Lehi, pilot injured
A plane rests on the side off of Interstate-15 in Lehi after it crashed, Wednesday, Dec.9, 2009. PATRICK SMITH/Daily Herald .
..LEHI -- A St. George man is in critical condition after his plane crashed near Thanksgiving Point in Lehi.
The Utah Highway Patrol reported a small plane crashed at exit 284 along the side of Interstate 15 in Lehi at about 2 p.m. The 52-year-old pilot was the only person in the plane and was taken by medical helicopter to Intermountain Medical Center.
Officials have not released the man’s name, but the co-owner of the aircraft, Patrick Loturco, said the pilot was St. George resident Mark Thorn. The investment broker called Loturco this morning and said he would be flying to Salt Lake City for business, Loturco said.
“I just hope he’s all right,” he said.
UHP lists Thorn's hometown as Sandy.
Police say the plane was headed north from St. George to Salt Lake City when it crashed. The plane crashed onto the strip of land between I-15 and the 284 exit off-ramp. Utah Highway Patrol spokesman Jeff Nigbur said it appears Thorn did an outstanding job of avoiding traffic and landing the aircraft on a small strip of land.
“It could have been a lot worse,” he said.
Nigbur said it is not clear what happened to cause the crash, and the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board will be responding to investigate.
“I have no idea what made the plane go down,” he said.
Spanish Fork resident Lyle Timmons was eating lunch at the nearby Iceberg restaurant when he saw the plane go down across the street. He said he saw no smoke coming from the plane, but it looked like the wings wobbled slightly. Timmons watched as the plane crashed down by the freeway, bouncing and spinning around before coming to a stop. At that point, a woman called 911, and Timmons said people coming off the freeway rushed to the pilot’s aid.
“People just instantly stopped on the freeway,” he said.
Timmons said there was a lot of traffic on the freeway and the offramp, and it is fortunate Thorn was able to bring the plane down away from the cars.
Loturco said Thorn has flown a lot of hours in the 1961 Beech Debonair and became part owner with Loturco in October. He has been flying with an instructor recently in order to have enough hours for the plane’s insurance policy and the plane has been well taken care of. Loturco said the last time Thorn flew the plane, he said the alternator died on him, so the alternator and voltage regulator have recently been replaced.
“If he’s noticed anything, he’s taken care of it right away,” he said.
Loturco said he has had an issue before with the fuel tanks in the plane, though he said it was rare. There are four tanks, and the plane could sputter if the fuel in one tank gets low and the pilot does not switch to another tank quickly. Loturco said he has been told the plane was in a stall when it went down, and it’s possible Thorn was not able to switch to a separate tank in time. However, Loturco said he does not know what happened, and Thorn is familiar with the plane’s systems.
It sounds like Thorn made a pretty good landing, Loturco said, and hopefully he will be OK.
“He’s a very nice person, very personable,” he said.
Southbound exit 284 and the right lane of southbound I-15 was closed for more than an hour. All southbound I-15 lanes are now open. Only the left lane of the exit 284 offramp remains closed.
Although the freeway was never fully closed, Nigbur said traffic was backed up considerably because of onlookers.
“We’d ask the general public to not slow down and look,” he said.