April 9, 2009

Hazen couple expresses gratitude after the crash

Curt and Sandra Melland, Hazen, walked away without injury after their personal aircraft flipped at the end of the Mercer County Regional Airport Runway just east of Hazen Saturday, March 28.

The crash in itself was rattling, C. Melland said – but what really left an imprint was the response of the local emergency crews.

S. Melland called 911 while still hanging upside down in her seat, C. Melland said – and by the time they freed themselves from their harnesses and fell to the ceiling of the Cessna Hawk XP, emergency responders were on scene.

"They were just that quick," C. Melland said. "These guys have been working the whole week with flooding. They had to be dog-tired, yet they responded so quickly. It was truly amazing."

The Mellands were flying in from Texas Saturday night, and after touching down on the runway might have hit some ice while braking, according to the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department. The plane nosed into the snow and flipped back over front, leaving the Mellands upside down in their safety harnesses. The emergency call was placed at 9:17 p.m.

"By the time that thing went over, things were moving pretty slow," C. Melland said. "It never even set off the emergency locator transmitter."

The ELT, a tracking transmitter that aids in the detection and location of boats, aircraft and people in distress, can sometimes even be set off by an abnormally rough landing, he noted.

Aside from the prompt response, the familiar faces responding to the scene comforted the Mellands.

"It was such a comfort to have the people that we knew, the people we worked with, the people we went to church with, surround us and support us in our time of trouble," C. Melland said. "They treated us so fantastic and were so professional. I know they’ve been training, but we got to see it firsthand.

"Our community is blessed by what they do. I have a lot of admiration and really admire their skill."

The accident is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration.

The Weather Network