First responders rescue 3 in NM plane crash

Search and rescue crews extracted one woman trapped in the plane and carried her down the mountain by hand in a basket stretcher


By Ashley Meeks
The Las Cruces Sun-News

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — A strong downdraft appears to be the cause of a single-engine plane crash in the low mountains along the Texas-New Mexico border, but the investigation continues.

The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department plane went belly-down northwest of the Franklin Mountains just before 11 a.m. Tuesday, about a mile east of N.M. Highway 404.

The three employees of the department aboard escaped with minor injuries, authorities said.

Lt. Arron Smith, 43, the pilot, and game warden Kenneth Zuber, 48, escaped the wreckage and called 911 from Smith's cell phone.

Game warden Hallie Dacy, 29, had the most harrowing day, as she was trapped in the plane for about three hours.

Search and rescue crews extracted Dacy, and she was taken down the mountain by hand in a basket stretcher, said New Mexico State Police Capt. Rich Libicer.

She was not critically injured.

All three were taken by ambulance to University Medical Center in El Paso.

"The difficulty was in gaining access to the crash site," Libicer said.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration will now determine the cause of the crash, Libicer said.

"This is not nearly as bad as it could have been," Libicer said. "We're fortunate that this is a rescue mission and not a recovery mission."

The plane, a Pantenavia P-68 observer, had departed from El Paso International Airport and crashed after encountering a strong downdraft, Smith told the FAA.

N.M. 404, which remained blocked off to most traffic for several hours, was reopened to vehicles around 4 p.m.

Responders from police, fire and other emergency agencies from New Mexico and Texas remained at the scene well into the night, aided and fed by American Red Cross volunteers.

Copyright 2010 El Paso Times, a MediaNews Group Newspaper

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