Plane hits fuel tank at airport

archive_import /

By AMY LINDBLOM

Emergency crews raced to Columbia Airport yesterday morning after learning of an accident that had the makings of a disaster: An airplane had hit a 10,000-gallon fuel tank.

As it turned out, there was no fire, a pilot walked away with minor injuries and his plane was left with a bumped nose and no propeller.

Gale Jennings of San Diego had just finished fueling his Piper Colt plane, but was having trouble starting it, said Donna Joyce, also of San Diego. She was waiting nearby as her husband, Patrick, was with their plane, waiting to fuel up.

She saw what happened to Jennings' plane:

"He was trying to hand-crank the propeller and had the throttle open," Donna Joyce said. "He kept going in and out of the cockpit, fiddling with the controls, and going back to the prop. Then the plane started, and he was hanging onto it running along beside it."

Donna Joyce said she yelled to her husband to get out of the way, and she took off running as fast as she could to get away from the fuel tanks.

"I just knew it was going to hit the tank and blow, taking the whole airport with it," Donna Joyce said.

It hit, but there was no explosion. The plane's nose was crumpled, but the tank was slightly dented.

The Joyces and Jennings had spent the weekend in Tuolumne County along with other members of a flying club. The members arrived Friday night and Saturday, and camped on airport grounds.

Another witness, Sterling Bigbee, a retired airplane mechanic, was at the airport yesterday morning and saw the accident and heard a loud thunk when Jennings' plane hit the tank.

When the plane started moving, Bigbee said, Jennings tried to hang onto the right wing strut to slow it down. But by hanging onto the strut, he turned the plane at a hard right into the fuel tank around the corner from the fueling area.

When the plane hit the tank, the propeller flew off and landed about 100 feet away, Bigbee said.

11506161
The Union Democrat
This image is copyrighted.

Reach all of Sonora, Calaveras County, Tuolumne, Angels Camp, Twain Harte, & Jamestown with your items to sell.

Ads appear Online and in Print

View Classifieds Place an Ad

Connect with The Union Democrat

Union Democrat Newsstand

Thursday May 26, 2016

Read digital interactive editions of our publications

Read Today's Edition Take A Tour

More Publications by The Union Democrat

View All Publications
Homelessness, high school and the Butte Fire

05/20/2016

Cole Baisch arrived at Calaveras High School around lunchtime as the sky ... more

Avalon Care Center fined for patient death

05/24/2016

Avalon Care Center in Sonora has been fined $80,000 by the California ... more

Deputies visit schools, build community ties

05/24/2016

You would think Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Deputy Nate Yorston was Santa Claus ... more

UPDATE: Probe begins in Don Pedro fire

05/25/2016

Investigators began sifting through the rubble of the Don Pedro Recreation Agency ... more

High Sierra passes closed again

05/20/2016

Days after authorities opened Ebbetts Pass, Sonora Pass and Tioga Pass for ... more