ST. AMANT — The Federal Aviation Administration is “taking a closer look” at the Sunday night crash of an ultralight aircraft in St. Amant in light of a previous incident involving the same pilot, who landed his craft into the Diversion Canal on June 2, an FAA spokesman said.
“The aircraft was an unregistered ultralight, so we don’t normally investigate these accidents in the same way as we would a registered aircraft,” said Lynn Lunsford, with the FAA. “Because this is the operator’s second crash in recent weeks, we are taking a closer look at it.”
On Sunday, the ultralight aircraft, which is essentially a glider with a small motor, crashed in a field next to Weber City Road in the Ascension Parish community of St. Amant about 7:30 p.m. The plane came down near several houses but managed to miss them, authorities said.
Witnesses saw the pilot — later identified as Landon Baker, 31, of Prairieville — and his craft fall from a height of about 100 feet, St. Amant Fire Chief James LeBlanc said. The pilot, who was the only person injured in the crash, had moderate injuries and was flown by helicopter to a local hospital, LeBlanc said.
Baker, in an entry on his Facebook page posted early Monday morning, said he “just wanted to let everyone know I’m going to make it. I made out with a fractured cheekbone, broke back and possibly internal stomach issues. Could have been much worst (sic).
“I’m not sure yet what caused the crash … someone said the wing folded and another said the prop belt started slipping and sent me falling 100 foot to the ground. All I remember was it starting to take a hard dive to the right and trying to get it into a open field. My next memory was being loaded into the helicopter.”
Carolyn Sanchez, whose home is the one nearest to where the wreck occurred, about 200 to 300 feet away, said ultralight aircraft regularly use as a runway a long strip of mown grass on the other side of Weber City Road, facing her home.
“They’re always coming over our house here. Now I’m already terrified” of what could happen, she said.
Sanchez said she had just brought her husband, Larry, home from having knee surgery before the crash happened Sunday but heard only the sound of a helicopter she later learned was there to bring the pilot to the hospital.
She and her husband later learned that their son Travis Sanchez and his girlfriend, Sarah Falcon, had pulled up in the family driveway when they saw the ultralight go down.
“They ran over there. (The pilot) had a gash on his hand and Sarah put pressure on his head with her hand,” said Sanchez, who believes it may have been her son or his girlfriend who called 911.
Maj. Ward Webb, of the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, said the agency contacted the FAA in the matter.
On Monday morning, FAA investigators at the scene of the crash said the single-seat Quicksilver aircraft hit a tree and crashed into the field. Investigators said they didn’t yet know if the crash was due to pilot error or a mechanical malfunction.
On June 2, also about 7:30 p.m., Baker crashed into the Diversion Canal, a waterway separating Ascension and Livingston parishes.
The crash site was near the 1100 block of River Highlands Road, which has a St. Amant address.
In that instance, the pilot wasn’t injured, Lunsford with the FAA said, and was able to take the aircraft home after emergency crews helped pull the ultralight from the canal. The craft has pontoons for normal water landings.
In that June incident, Allison Hudson, spokeswoman for the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, said the pilot brought the plane down because he noticed “something was wrong.”
Advocate staff photographer Patrick Dennis contributed to this report.