Freedom — May 14, 2012 — The medical condition of the airplane pilot, who was injured when his small airplane crashed on Sunday, was upgraded from critical to fair on Monday. According to Freedom Fire Chief Justin Brooks and Police Chief Josh Shackford, pilot Gary Cole, 71, of Ossipee, crashed a 1936 Stinson SR-7B at around 1:51 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.
The airplane’s landing gear struck a log pile at Freedom Wood Yard. Then the airplane landed upside down near a small water body on the woodlot, said Brooks. Brooks said Cole was part of the way out of the airplane whe5-14-plane-crash-4n rescuers arrived. They were able to put Cole on a backboard without having to cut him out of the overturned wreckage. Cole was flown to Maine Medical Center in Portland.
Brooks said Cole was trying to make a landing in the woodlot. A pilot with a multi-engine, instrument ratings, it took skill for Cole to bring the airplane down as well as he did after the engine quit. Brooks said he could not get the engine to refire and the plane stalled on him. Cole had the presence of mind to turn the fuel off before he crashed — otherwise, Brooks said, the crash could have been “catastrophic.”
“He did quite a job to do what he did without dying,” said Brooks.
It’s unclear if Cole was trying to take off or land at a nearby airstrip when the accident occurred, said Brooks, adding the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating.
Cole owns Conway Eye Care in North Conway. He lives in Soaring Heights in West Ossipee, which is an aviation-themed development that shares an airstrip with a similar community called Windsock Village. The airplane was registered to Starfire Aviation of Conway, but Shackford believes the airplane ultimately belongs to Cole.
Cole’s accident is only the second airplane crash in Freedom in about 15 years, said Brooks and Shackford. The other crash happened a couple years ago.
The airplane landed in Verso Paper Corporation’s woodlot at 1332 Ossipee Lake Road. Paul Beck, who represents the wood lot’s owner, said he heard about the accident when he received a call from an employee who had to open the gate for the investigators. Since then, the scene has been cordoned off with yellow police tape.
“The plane hasn’t been touched and it won’t be touched until the insurance company has been notified,” said Beck on Monday.
There haven’t been other crashes or emergency landings on the woodlot before, said Beck.
The National Transportation Safety Board will determine the cause of the crash according to FAA spokeswoman Arlene Salac. It will take months for the NTSB to come out with a full report but a preliminary report will be done in a week to 10 days, she said.
Cole has operated Conway Eye Care since 1969. He opened Coos Eye Care in Berlin in 1994.