Firefighting pilot survives Aug. 27 crash near Meeker

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MEEKER — A pilot whose single-engine firefighting plane crashed Aug. 27 about 20 miles from here walked away with only minor injuries.
Rio Blanco County Undersheriff Mike Joos still can’t believe it.
“We were amazed (he wasn’t seriously injured or killed),” Joos said. “The pilot climbed out of the window of the plane and walked over to the trucks that were there.”
There were three trucks — one pickup and two fire trucks — on the ground near where the plane went down.
“It’s just amazing nobody on the ground got hurt really bad,” said Joos, adding one of the plane’s wings hit the side of one of the fire trucks.
A female firefighter hurt her hand running for cover, but it wasn’t serious enough to require medical treatment, Joos said.
The pilot of the plane, whose name was not released, was involved in fighting a wildfire on 10 acres of federal land northwest of Meeker owned by the Bureau of Land Management.
He was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Grand Junction.
The engine of the plane was still running when the plane crashed. Firefighters on the ground noticed something was wrong with the plane, Joos said.
“They were watching the plane make its drop and it was coming back around to make another run and they noticed it was going way too slow,” Joos said. “The window (of the plane) was open and he (the pilot) was waving or motioning to them. They noticed something was wrong.”
The plane slid about 200 to 300 feet on its belly after it hit the ground. The plane never caught fire, but was leaking fuel after it crashed.
“He was very lucky,” Joos said of the pilot.
Federal Aviation Admin-istration and BLM investigators are looking into the cause of the crash.