ashland.news
May 26, 2024

NTSB investigating Ashland plane crash

The tail of a crashed plane sticks up out of Neil Creek near the southwest corner of Ashland Airport on Friday afternoon. An industrial area in the 3100 block of East Main Street is visible at left rear, across the creek. Ashland Fire & Rescue photo
April 11, 2023

Plane ended up in Neil Creek; both people aboard escaped safely

By Kevin Opsahl, Rogue Valley Times

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating Friday’s plane crash at the Ashland Municipal Airport.

Jennifer Gabris, a spokesperson for the NTSB, said Monday she did not know whether an NTSB official had yet visited the scene of the crash, at Neil Creek just west of the airport runway, or had relied on the Federal Aviation Administration for information. She said she reached out the incident investigator to get more details but did not expect to get a response until as late as Tuesday afternoon. 

A 911 call about the crash was made at 4:52 p.m. Friday, and when responders arrived on scene minutes later, they saw a plane — capable of seating six passengers — lodged in Neil Creek, according to Chris Chambers, Forest Division chief of Ashland Fire and Rescue.

He said the plane was being flown by a student pilot, accompanied by an instructor, from Medford to Klamath Falls to Ashland and back to Medford. 

The tail of a crashed plane sticks up out of Neil Creek near the southwest corner of Ashland Airport on Friday afternoon. Ashland Fire & Rescue photo

The individuals, Chambers said, were engaged in “some kind of maneuver,” when the plane veered left into Ashland airport and crash landed to the south side of the runway. The plane, he said, quickly caught in grass and dove nose-down, at a steep angle, into Neil Creek. 

“The plane pretty quickly caught on fire and was almost fully consumed when the gas tank eventually caught,” Chambers said. “It ended up being a pretty big ball of fire and smoke.”

He said the passengers were out of the plane by the time firefighters arrived.

“I can only imagine that they were very anxious to exit the plane,” Chambers said. 

The fire was extinguished by 5:06 p.m., Chambers said. 

He said the incident had an added layer of complexity, with hazardous fluid from the plane going into the creek. Ashland Fire and Rescue personnel deployed a foam into the water to help with cleanup, and notified the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality for additional cleanup help. 

DEQ spokesman Dylan Darling said Monday that his agency was made aware of the incident the day it happened and sent a contractor to inspect the creek for any needed clean up.

Darling also said Blum Family Dynasty, the plane’s owner, would be responsible for paying the cost of any cleanup. A representative at Skinner Aviation, the fixed-base operator at Ashland Municipal Airport, said the airport’s manager was not immediately available for comment. 

Chambers said his firefighters were “lucky” that no one got hurt, including anyone on the ground; that no buildings or private property was damaged and the crash did not happen in the summer, when fires tend to accelerate. 

“You never want to see things like that happen, but all things considered, the outcome was a lot less tragic than it could have been,” Chambers said.

Reporter Kevin Opsahl can be reached at 458-488-2034 or kopsahl@rv-times.com. This story first appeared in the Rogue Valley Times.

April 12 update: Corrected the preview summary of this story appearing on the home page, which incorrectly said the hazardous materials spilled into the creek came from fire-extinguishing foam; they came from the plane (gas and oil).

April 16 update: Corrected article to say the plane’s owner, not the fixed-base operator, would be responsible for cleanup costs.

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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