Jet crashes, burns at airport

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 16, 2000

Managing Editor

Jan. 15, 2001 10 PM

Federal Aviation Administration officials spent much of the day Monday examining the wreckage of a Lear jet owned by Dallas Cowboys football organization owner Jerry Jones at the Troy Airport.

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Amid cool and wet conditions, officials walked through the wreckage in a misty rain throughout the day taking photographs of different parts of the aircraft that were scattered over an approximately 100-foot area seeking clues about what caused the report.

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Reports indicate that two deer, which were apparently on the runway when the jet landed at the airport yesterday around 11 a.m., played a major role in the accident. Both animals were killed in the crash of the Lear Model 60.

"There’s no doubt from the initial reports that the deer caused this accident," said Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford.

When the small passenger jet unofficial crashed Sunday at the Troy airport, both the pilot and co-pilot – the only two occupants of the aircraft – were injured.

Both Eddie Collins, 50, of Jacksonville, Ark., and Max McVickers, 31, of Irving, Texas were transported to the University of Alabama at Birmingham hospital Sunday afternoon after they were stabilized at Troy’s Edge Regional Medical Center. They were reported to be in "serious" condition Monday afternoon. Collins was reportedly the pilot of the aircraft and McVickers was co-pilot. Broken bones and other injuries were reported.

Troy Police Department public information officer Sgt. Benny Scarbrough said that the investigation has been turned over to the Federal Aviation Administration.

"They are investigating the accident," Scarbrough said. "The National Transportation Safety Board has also been notified."

Lunsford said the NTSB will not conduct an independent investigation since the crash caused no fatalities.

"They will rely on the report issued by the FAA," Lunsford said Monday night.

Unofficial sources reported that the aircraft was landing in Troy to pick up people affiliated with the Dallas Cowboys football organization, including Stephen Jones, son of Dallas Cowboys football organization owner Jerry Jones. Stephen Jones and two companions whose names have not been released were reportedly in Pike County for a hunt that was to benefit Pike Liberal Arts School.

According to Scarbrough, information released by the Dallas Cowboys footbal organization was that the aircraft was landing in Troy "on business."

Country music artist Hank Williams Jr., who owns land and a cabin in the area, was, the source said, one of the organizers of the hunt. Jones and other members of the Dallas Cowboys organization reportedly ate dinner at The Pines restaurant in Troy Saturday night for dinner with Williams, sources reported.

Lunsford said the jet crashed when it hit two deer on the 5,000-foot main runway. Lunsford said officials believe a device which causes a backward thrust of power from the jet engine was damaged when the deer were hit. This caused the aircraft to lose the ability to rapidly decelerate.

"The jet hit the deer 2,200 feet into the runway," Lunsford. "They traveled the length of the runway at high speed, meaning the jet was spinning for another 3,000 or so feet. We have been told this was because the jet couldn’t give a backward thrust of the engines due to being damaged in the encounter with the deer."

Fire department units from throughout Pike County responded to the situation, including the fire crew from Sikorsky Support Services.

According to Matt and Eric Chance, two brothers who were working in the area with Atwell Cable Construction Company, the accident was a close call for the two men who were in the aircraft.

"We were working on the Conecuh River about a mile away when we saw black smoke boiling into the air," Matt said. "We hopped in the truck and drove over there to see what was happening."

The two beat most emergency personnel to the accident.

"We were just about the first ones there besides the people already at the airport," Eric said. "When we got there, a jet was on fire off the runway and the back end was in flames.

"The people at the scene were trying to get two men out of the front of the plane before the fire got there," he said. "They were spraying the fire with water and fire extinguishers and people were running everywhere."

According to a release issued by the Dallas Cowboys football organization, people at the scene saved the pilot and co-pilot thanks to a "heroic effort."

After workers pulled one man out of the front, Matt said, men hooked a Chevrolet Tahoe owned by Troy’s Kenny Campbell who was at the airport at the time of the crash, up to chains and started tearing the cabin apart.

"Kenny and some of the other guys who wer at the airport did an amazing job," Lunsford said. "If it weren’t for their efforts, those men could have easily been burned alive. They kept the fire off of them with extinguishers and water until they could get them out."

Keep checking for updates and keep your eye on The Messenger.