Patricia Chamberlain was asleep in her bedroom Saturday morning when she was awakened by an earsplitting bang.
“It sounded like a big bomb had gone off,” said the 83-year-old widow.
When she got out of bed and looked outside her manufactured home in Mead’s Shenandoah Forest Park, Chamberlain saw the wreckage of a small yellow aircraft amid pieces of her neighbor’s wood fence.
The pilot of the N3 Pup – a single-engine, single-seat ultralight – suffered several cuts and back pain, according to law enforcement officials, who were called to the scene at 10:17 a.m.
Darel Tichacek, 74, a resident of Mead, was taken to Deaconess Medical Center where he was reported in stable condition Saturday evening.
He was initially pinned inside his aircraft, according to Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy David C. Thornburg. Medics who responded to the accident indicated that Tichacek’s injuries appeared to be minor before transporting him to the hospital.
Thornburg said the engine of Tichacek’s plane started sputtering during its take-off at the nearby, privately owned Mead Flying Service Airport, located near U.S. Highway 2 at E. 3507 Deer Road.
The sputtering got worse as the plane gained altitude, Thornburg said. About a minute after leaving the ground, the pilot banked a hard left in an effort to return to the airport, he said.
Tichacek ended up crashing into Helga Pivel’s back yard, which is adjacent to a grassy field located on the northwest end of the airport’s only runway.
On his way down, his plane bounced off the roof of Chamberlain’s house and clipped about 5 feet off the top of a blue spruce in her yard before hitting Pivel’s fence and taking down her clothesline.
Pivel, who was talking on the phone when the accident happened, shuddered when she heard the loud boom in her back yard. “No, it can’t be!” she said, recalling the scene. “There’s an airplane in my back yard!”
Pivel and other witnesses said Tichacek appeared to be OK and was able to talk to emergency personnel, who arrived within minutes after the crash.
Thornburg said Tichacek and his son were flying their own aircraft and had been practicing touch-and-go landings at the airport. When the plane hit the ground, Tichacek’s son was up in the air, said Thornburg.
The Federal Aviation Administration will investigate the crash, he said.
Neighbors along East Garrison Lane – the street where Chamberlain and Pivel both live – hovered near the crash site, which was later barricaded with yellow police tape. Pivel and Chamberlain expressed relief that nothing worse happened. Before hitting the ground, the airplane thudded against the roof of Chamberlain’s garage, just 3 feet away from the bedroom where she slept.
As Chamberlain ambled back into her house, a neighbor stopped her with some advice: “You’d better go and buy a Lotto ticket. It’s your lucky day.”