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Man sees plane crash into Matagorda Bay

By Brian Cuaron
July 3, 2011 at 2:03 a.m.

The Coast Guard transports wreckage from the plane crash as the helicopter circles overhead in Matagorda Bay on Sunday afternoon.

PIERCE FIELD DETAILSPierce Field is collectively owned by 250 people, said Aaron Pierce.

The field, located on Matagorda Peninsula, was an abandoned Naval air base from World War II. He said when he started flying from there, the FAA said he had to register someone as the contact person.

So Pierce was listed as the contact person.

Like a bird that had its wings clipped, Mark Daniel was grounded Sunday morning.

The owner of a Matagorda Peninsula beach house, Daniel's plane was out of service because of an engine problem. That left him virtually stranded on the peninsula.

So the Seadrift resident was on his porch, drinking his coffee when he saw a single-engine Lancair aircraft take off from Pierce Field.

Then something unusual happened.

Everything seemed normal as the plane made a turn and headed toward Austin.

A quarter-mile off, though, the plane made a 180-degree turn back to the airstrip at an estimated 3,000-foot altitude.

"I thought that was strange," Daniel said.

Then the plane made an odd, aerobatic maneuver.

"Why is this guy pulling a maneuver like this, this low to the ground?" Daniel asked himself.

However, the aircraft nose-dived into Matagorda Bay, traveling more than 200 mph, Daniel said. The crash occurred about 10:30 a.m.

Daniel called 911.

"When you see a plane go down like this, there's no sense in getting in a rush," Daniel said.

"You can have lots of things that are survivable, but this old boy here got dealt a bum hand."

Daniel and a neighbor got into a plane and flew over the wreckage. He figured that they could maybe help the searchers.

About six fishing boats had also gone out to the plane, which Daniel said had disintegrated into debris.

He said the plane's owner and another Austin man were on the peninsula Saturday when he arrived.

He said the plane's owner was a really nice guy.

Daniel, a 55-year-old who comes from a crop-dusting family, said he has flown for a long time. He speculated the pilot knew something was wrong with the aircraft and was trying to return to the airstrip.

He called the crash a "catastrophic failure."

"This poor guy never had a chance. I don't care how good a pilot you are," Daniel said.

"My stomach is still upset over it."

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