Friday, April 24, 2009

April 24, Astoria: Plane crash and Columbia River rescue

On a beautiful Saturday, a plane flew low over the city of Astoria and crash-landed in the Columbia River. Thakfully, both people on board survived. One was a former Mayor of Astoria. I've given the long text story in my Astoria, Oregon, Daily Photo blog. Since the "City Daily Photo" rules specify one picture per day, I used the dramatic rescue photo above with a lot of text, and left the rest of the photo story for this blog and my albums. For that reason, I'll keep the text short here - the two blog posts complement each other. Because Laurel saw the plane veer over the town and plunge into the water, because she called me, and because I was here with my camera and could get to the scene within minutes, I was apparently the only one who caught the people on the wing of the plane. See the Astoria, Oregon, Daily Photo for details. And click the picture for a larger view.

Behind the shutter, I didn't see all of the details until I got the photos onto my hard drive. The pilot and his passenger are on the pilot boat now, but not visible.

I couldn't understand why the boat was leaving, since I hadn't seen any people, and I actually thought they were still on the plane.

The scene at that point was eerily serene.

I'd been standing behind the Maritime Museum, and the police cordoned the place off, asking everyone to get out. The plane had begun to drift down-river rather fast, and it seemed a better vantage point was on the dock anyway.

I stood on the dock by the Maritime, and within 11 minutes the plane had been carried by the current not only past the museum to the docks' location on the river bank, but it had also been carried - amazingly - toward midsectiof a Coast Guard bar tender equipped with a crane meant for lifting heavy objects such a buoys out of the water. It was just strange - of all the places it could have landed and been carried to! At that point there were no ropes on the plane, and nobody had been guiding it -0r not that I saw, anyway!

A crowd gathers at the bar tender, wonders at the bizarre scene, and wonders what they're going to do with the plane.

The Coast Guard seemed to be wondering, too, as the plane, nose down and helpless, continues to float up near the ship.

This is the first time I saw anyone bring out ropes. They're not going to let it get away, although I don't think there's much of a plan yet. My camera batteries died at this point, and I ran back to get new ones.

When I returned, they'd hauled the tail up against the ship with a large black rubber torpedo-shaped thing holding the plane away from the ship's hull so it wouldn't cause damage.

Here the people are gathered along the dock at the side of the bar tender.

Then they decided to move it back along the ship's side.

It's strongly roped so it can be pulled against the current - left being down-river and right being up.

The plane has mostly sunk now, and you can just see a wing tip, looking a lot like the fin of a shark. The black rubber torpedo is the "egg" I referred to above.

So they were going to haul the plane onto the ship after all. For some reason I like this photo, where the crew begins unhooking the tie-downs on the piles of huge chain. The orders are: clear the deck.

The ship's crane is lifting each heavy pile of chain. I thought they were just loose piles, but they're constructed and hooked together in such a way that they don't have to be lifted very high to be moved. Yes, they completely lift them, they're not dragged.

What now? Waiting. Eventually, we all left. It seemed they were going to call in another boat do something with the plane, and meanwhile the crew were breaking out snacks. Whatever was going to happen, it didn't seem like it would be soon. Despite the sun, the nice-looking day and the t-shirts, most of us who had been standing around for an hour and a half were glad to call it good and get back to someplace warm. Lee and I had tickets the Crab and Seafood Festival, too, and it was getting late. He'd be arriving soon from Bend. The people had been rescued from the plane at 4:46 pm, and it was now almost 6:15. This was an unusual and interesting afternoon, for sure. I hadn't heard a sound, and wouldn't have known anything had happened if Laurel hadn't called. A lot of people working in the area hadn't had a clue.

Further reading: The Daily Astorian


Bubblewench said...

Again WOW!!! Thanks for sharing all the pics.

Hyde DP said...

Great account - I couldn't help laughing at the bit where you said the batteries gave out!

tapirgal said...

Oh, yes, the battery stories we must all have :) I'd run out without my purse, which had the extras in it. Ironically, if I'd waited to look for it and also my keys to lock the door, the people would have been off the plane and I'd have missed the photo. Fortunately, the batteries gave out at a sort of slow point in the story! Here's a TOTALLY incredible evening that revolved around dead batteries. Thanks for your amusement :) I had to smile, too.