Two Marathon residents are recovering from injuries they suffered when the plane they were flying in crashed during an emergency landing near Marathon Monday morning.
Guil Jones, the pilot, and his passenger Bobby Hornsby had just taken off when they began to experience engine trouble and had to attempt an emergency landing.
Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson says when Jones attempted to land the plane in a freshly-plowed field wet from recent rains, the nose of the plane got caught in the mud, flipping the plane upside down onto the cockpit.
“When he hit it, it just stuck, like hitting a brick wall,” Dodson says.
Both suffered non-life-threatening injuries and were taken to Big Bend Regional Medical Center in Alpine. Jones has since been transferred to Medical Center Hospital in Odessa, while Hornsby was treated and released.
According to Dodson, a witness recalled seeing the plane take off from Jones’ private airstrip in Marathon and making a circle before the plane started sputtering. According to a different witness account, the plane’s engine simply failed shortly after takeoff, before the pilot had time to make a circle.
An FAA spokesperson says the agency’s investigation into the crash could take a few weeks. Investigators are expected to arrive on the scene Tuesday.
Some locals have complained about Jones flying too close to the ground over Marathon.
Dodson says this is the second time Jones has crashed a small plane, and, he says, some worry what would happen if a plane stalled out right over the town.
“They don’t mind if he gets out of town,” Dodson says, “but he’s been flying right over the top of the houses.”
FAA rules say a pilot has to at least fly 1,000 feet over the highest obstacle in any “congested area” – a city, town, settlement or any open-air gathering of people.
Dodson says his advice to Jones would be to play it safe.
“I would tell him to stay away from over the residents, at least to stay out in the country there,” he says.
“The town’s not that big, once you get in the air there’s a lot of little country to fly over.”