First responder recounts ‘bizarre’ southern Utah plane crash where pilot disappeared

May 29, 2023, 7:03 PM

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Utah — For a rural fire department, Enterprise Fire and EMS doesn’t get too many calls like what Deputy Chief Jeff Germain said came in late Sunday afternoon.

“They witnessed the aircraft come over them and lose altitude, and then crash over the side of the mountain,” he said, of what someone reported.

They said the plane went down near Flat Top Mountain South, southwest of Enterprise and about an hour northwest of St. George in southern Utah.

Germain said their department was worried the plane would catch fire and the flames would spread, so they sent their wildland firefighting crews, in addition to EMS and other fire crews.

Because they didn’t know the pilot’s condition or how many people were on board the plane, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said search and rescue, Airlife out of Cedar City, the Department of Public Safety helicopter, and their deputies were also dispatched.

Pilot uninjured after crashing small plane in southern Utah, officials say

As Germain’s crew headed out, he said they got an alert of a UTV rollover in the same area. He said the report came from a 360 Alert they would later find out was tied to the pilot’s watch.

He said in 360 Alerts, contact is usually made with the person wearing the watch, and they will report what the situation is.

“That just really put us in, like, ‘Where are we going? And what are we expecting when we get there?'” he recalled.

They arrived to find the pilot hiking down from an upside-down plane that crashed into trees and brush. Germain said they were shocked the pilot was walking and able to talk with them.

He said the pilot told their fire chief that he had just gotten the plane and was on a solo flight home.

“He had purchased the plane that day– that’s what we were told from him,” Germain said. “And he took off from a dirt airstrip about three miles down the canyon, and when he got up, he had some resistance with some wind. It resulted in his crashing of the aircraft.”

The aftermath of the small plane crash in Washington County. (Enterprise Fire and EMS) The aftermath of the small plane crash in Washington County. (Enterprise Fire and EMS) The aftermath of the small plane crash in Washington County. (Enterprise Fire and EMS) The aftermath of the small plane crash in Washington County. (Enterprise Fire and EMS) The aftermath of the small plane crash in Washington County. (Enterprise Fire and EMS) The aftermath of the small plane crash in Washington County. (Enterprise Fire and EMS)

The pilot refused medical attention, and Germain said they brought him down to their vehicle to continue talking to him.

“Within a couple of minutes, we turned around, and he had left the scene of the crash,” Germain recounted. “And at that point, we turned it over to the local authorities because we were really confused to why somebody would leave the scene of an airplane crash. It just doesn’t make sense.”

KSL TV reached out to the listed owner of the plane, speaking with someone who identified themselves as an immediate family member. That person said the pilot actually hadn’t just purchased the plane and has owned it for a while. They said he walked away unhurt, and they had no further comment.

The Flight Aware flight tracker shows the plane taking off from Las Vegas hours prior.

Germain isn’t sure what to make of it all.

“It was just a very bizarre turn of events,” he said.

But he said the pilot was lucky.

“At the end of the day, we’re glad he actually is alive,” he said.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office said the FAA is investigating the crash.

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First responder recounts ‘bizarre’ southern Utah plane crash where pilot disappeared