Two men were hospitalized Thursday afternoon, April 26, after a small aircraft they were flying in crashed just outside of Hillsboro city limits.
According to the Washington County Sheriff's Office, the single-engine plane went down at 4:20 p.m., Thursday. Cassandra Ulven, a spokeswoman for Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, said the plane contained two occupants, both were were alive and conscious when firefighters arrived to free them from the plane. Deputies also assisted in providing medical attention, the Sheriff's Office stated.
The pilot, Gennaro Avolio, 88, of Hood River, was taken by Life Flight helicopter to Emanuel. He is listed in serious condition. A passenger in the plane, Canby resident Gary Hagstrom, 73, was also injured in the crash. He was transported by ambulance and is listed in critical condition.
Deputy Jeff Talbot said the plane crashed near the intersection of Southwest Tualatin Valley Highway and 331st Avenue in unincorporated Washington County directly between the cities of Hillsboro and Cornelius.
The aircraft was identified as a Yakovlev Yak-52, a type of high-performance single-propeller plane originally built as a Soviet Air Force trainer.
According to Bruce Montgomery, a spokesman for the Hillsboro Fire Department, it was a challenge for emergency responders to access the site because of difficult terrain. The plane landed in a filbert orchard, Montgomery said.
The cause of the crash is not yet clear. Montgomery said witnesses reported it came in from the west and the engine may not have been running. An investigation is underway.
Traffic control at the Hillsboro Airport received notice from the plane's pilot that he was declaring a state of emergency, according to an audio recording released Thursday evening. The Washington County Sheriff's Office said dispatchers were notified by the airport that the aircraft was experiencing engine trouble about two minutes prior to the crash at 4:20 p.m.
James Wart, who witnessed the crash from his fruit stand along Tualatin Valley Highway, said the plane's wing struck the treetops after it passed directly over a powerline.
"There was no engine," Wart said. "He couldn't have been doing more than 20 miles per hour. It was nice and smooth. That was the amazing part, how controlled the landing was until he hit the tree."
Wart praised the plane's pilot for maintaining control.
"He's a good pilot," Wart said. "Any landing you can walk away from is good."
No injuries or damage were reported on the ground, the Washington County Sheriff's Office stated.
The Hillsboro Fire Department took the lead in responding to the crash, with other emergency agencies — including the Washington County Sheriff's Office and TVF&R — also on the scene.
The incident is under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with the latest on the information about the two occupants, including their names, medical condition and ages. More information about the type of plane and the crash and an eyewitness account were also added to the original story. An earlier version of this story misstated the agencies investigating the crash due to an error in an initial statement from the Washington County Sheriff's Office. The agencies are the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board. Two date references have also been corrected. The crash occurred Thursday afternoon, April 26.
By Mark Miller and Geoff Pursinger
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