Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Plane crash-lands at Smiley Creek

Pilot and passenger walk away from Saturday incident

Express Staff Writer

A pilot and passenger escaped injury after their single-engine plane flipped upon making an emergency landing at the snow-covered Smiley Creek airstrip on Saturday.

The Cessna 150D, piloted by 67-year-old Leslie Gropp, connected with the snowy runway and immediately flipped over on its top, reported Blaine County Sheriff's Lt. Jay Davis. The accident occurred about 12:23 p.m.

The airstrip is located in the upper Sawtooth Valley and is surrounded by the Sawtooth, White Cloud and Smoky mountains.

Davis said Gropp decided to attempt the emergency landing in the silver aircraft because he was low on fuel. He had apparently intended to fly south over Galena Summit—the rugged watershed divide separating the upper Salmon and Big Wood river drainages—and then land on an unnamed airstrip farther south.

"The snow made him do a nose-over," Davis said.

He said both Gropp and his passenger, 39-year-old Boise resident Mark Humtwork, were able to exit the damaged aircraft and walk to a nearby phone at the Smiley Creek Lodge to call the Blaine County Sheriff's

Office. Neither sustained injuries from the crash, he reported.

In the summer, the dirt-covered Smiley Creek airstrip within the Sawtooth National Recreation Area is a popular landing spot for pilots in small aircraft accustomed to flying in the remote mountains of central Idaho.

Jason Kauffman:

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