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Pilot of downed plane waved down help

| Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009

The pilot of a small airplane carrying sightseers that crashed Sunday after trying to land in foggy conditions at an Indiana County airport was able to get help for his passengers by flagging down a passing firetruck, officials said.

Foggy conditions limited visibility to a quarter-mile when the single-engine Piper Cherokee crashed into a hillside just north of Jimmy Stewart Airport after 6 p.m. Sunday, said Todd Heming, manager of the airport.

Prior to the crash, occupants of the plane had radioed the airport that they intended to land there, but if the attempt failed they would try to land somewhere else. When radar couldn't locate the plane, airport officials presumed it crashed and called emergency crews to search for the wreckage, Heming said.

Soon after, the pilot, Mark Goldinger of Dayton, staggered to a road, where he waved down a firetruck. It took crews about 15 minutes to reach the wreckage on four-wheel-drive vehicles.

"That saved valuable time in getting to the other two patients," Indiana fire Chief John Colananni said. "God only knows how long it could have took us to locate the plane."

Goldinger was in fair condition at Conemaugh Medical Center in Johnstown, a hospital spokeswoman said Monday. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters said one of the others on board was in critical condition. The condition of the other passenger wasn't known.

The FAA turned over the investigation to the National Transportation Safety Board because the plane was badly damaged and because someone was critically injured. NTSB officials did not immediately return a message left yesterday.

FAA records show Goldinger is the plane's registered owner. The FAA does not release the names of passengers and pilots involved in crashes, but Peters said they were "on a sightseeing flight to and from Jimmy Stewart field."

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