1 dead in plane crash near Ore. solar eclipse hotspot

The aircraft exploded in a ball of fire, killing the pilot and starting a small brushfire that firefighters quickly extinguished


By Evan Sernoffsky
The San Francisco Chronicle

MADRAS, Ore. — One person died in a fiery plane crash near the small central Oregon town of Madras on Saturday as thousands of eclipse chasers -- many from the Bay Area -- descended on the state, officials said Sunday.

Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Adkins said the pilot was alone in the single-engine, home-built Wheeler Express when the plane went down around 1:50 p.m. in a canyon about a mile short of the Madras Municipal Airport (about 120 miles southeast of Portland).

The plane went down about two days before a feverishly anticipated total eclipse traces its path across Oregon and other states to the east.
The plane went down about two days before a feverishly anticipated total eclipse traces its path across Oregon and other states to the east. (Photo/AP)

The aircraft exploded in a ball of fire, killing the pilot and starting a small brushfire that firefighters quickly extinguished.

The pilot was not identified but may have had ties to the Bay Area. KNTV reported the plane had taken off from the San Carlos Airport on Saturday, citing an unnamed airport employee, but an airport employee told The Chronicle on Sunday that it wasn't clear whether that was true.

Officials initially reported that two people had died in the crash, but after speaking with the owners of the downed plane, emergency responders determined the pilot was the only person on board, Adkins said.

Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.

The plane went down about two days before a feverishly anticipated total eclipse traces its path across Oregon and other states to the east.

Madras -- which is in the eclipse's path of totality -- has drawn thousands of visitors in recent days.

Copyright 2017 The San Francisco Chronicle

 

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