Connecticut Firefighters Respond to Downed Aircraft

On Sunday, Aug. 31, at approximately 9 a.m., the Warehouse Point Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched to Skylark Airpark, a small airport with a runway of approximately 2,800 feet.

The initial call was that of an aircraft crash with no specific location. The Incident Commander, Car 38, arrived on the scene, and found the runway environment clear of aircraft and no apparent aircraft crash. At this juncture, eyewitnesses approached the IC and informed him that a small aircraft (a 1930's vintage Tiger month) had crashed, while taking off.

The only available information, from eye witnesses, was that the aircraft had gone down in woods located across the street from the airport.

The First Due Engine Company, Engine 138, arrived on the scene, as the IC was being directed to the possible location of the wreckage. Car 38 established a command post directly across the street from the airport in an open field. Engine Company 138 led by Car 638, entered the wooded area and after several minutes located the aircraft in the trees, approximately 40 feet off the ground, with the two passengers still in the aircraft.

Communications with the two occupants was established and it was determined that they were uninjured. By this time, Engine Company 538, Truck Company 138 and Rescue Company 138 were on the scene as was Engine Tank Company 239 from the Broad Brook Volunteer Fire Department.

During his assessment, Car 638 determined that the trees, in which the aircraft was located, while supporting the 1,000 pound aircraft, were not of significant size and strength to support rescue personnel. Complicating matters was the fact that the location was in a swamp, thus unable to support ground ladders. Car 38 called upon a special rescue unit from Enfield, with the intent of establishing block, tackles, and pulleys in the trees. Upon arriving, it was determined by Enfield, that the aircraft was in too precarious a position to affect a rescue using their existing equipment.

With fewer and fewer options available, Car 38 requested the US Coast Guard for the use of one of their helicopters to hoist the passengers from the wreckage. While this was a risky proposition, there were few other choices. There was concern among the rescuers that not only was the responding helicopter more than 1 hour distant, but that the rotor wash might dislodge the aircraft thus sending it to the ground and injuring passengers and perhaps rescuers.

A professional woodsman came upon the scene, who had been trained in rescue operations, Climbing an adjacent tree, he was able to secure ropes around the pilot climbing into a tethered stokes basket and lowered to the ground. The passenger was removed from the aircraft in similar fashion and lowered, uninjured, to the ground.

The entire operations lasted more than 5 hours but ended without incident.