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Yellowstone National Park News Release

SMALL PLANE CRASH FOLLOWUP

August 05, 2003 - PR 03-72

Yellowstone National Park staff received several 911 calls from visitors at 6:38 pm on August 04, reporting the crash of a small airplane near the Midway Geyser Basin on the west side of the park (between Madison Junction and the Old Faithful area). The main park road was closed from the time the incident occurred until about midnight causing visitors to take alternative routes. Some visitors were allowed to park RVs in the Old Faithful parking lot for the night.

The pilot of the plane, James Wright, 53, of Cottage Grove, Oregon, was killed upon impact.

Witness reports indicated that the airplane approached the Midway Geyser Basin area from the west and was flying at about tree-top level just south of the parking area. Apparently, the airplane initially hit the ground on the west side of the Firehole River and came to rest on the east side of the Firehole River near the main park road. Witnesses reported that the airplane burst into flame upon impact, but the fire was put out very quickly by park staff. Debris was strewn throughout the area and the engine and a wing landed in the river. Some fuel leaked into the river and on the ground near the river. Park staff removed the engine from the river last night to prevent further leakage. Cleanup of any spilled fuel will be done as quickly as possible.

No one on the ground was hurt.

The aircraft was a replica of the Hughes H-1B racer that was originally designed, built and flown by millionaire Howard Hughes in the 1930s. This replica was built by Mr. Wright and made its first flight in July 2002.

A number of people witnessed the accident. The NTSB and FAA have been called in and should arrive in the park on Tuesday to do an extensive investigation.

-NPS-


Information provided by the NPS

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