Pilot parachutes to safety as plane crashes in bluffs

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Pictured is the crashed plane shortly after it was discovered in the bluffs off Bluff Road near Steffen Road. (Spencer Michelson photo)

A 19-year-old pilot parachuted to safety in a farm field near Fults on Tuesday afternoon, after the skydiving plane he was flying out of a Festus, Mo., airport experienced mechanical problems and eventually crashed.

Mangled metal remains of the plane were eventually located in the area of Bluff Road near Steffen Road between Maeystown and Fults. The plane was in more than 20 pieces, but officials determined there was no fire.

The Valmeyer, Maeystown and Prairie du Rocher fire departments were called out shortly after 3 p.m., after authorities from Jefferson County, Mo., alerted Monroe County emergency dispatch of an aircraft in distress near the area of old Valmeyer.

A St. Louis County Police Department helicopter finally spotted the fragmented plane about 2.5 hours after the crash.

“A St. Louis County helicopter is the one that actually located the plane in the bluff,” Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing said. “We were initially told by the pilot that he thought it was in one of the corn fields. But, with the height of the corn right now, we didn’t know where it was at.”

The FAA will visit the crash site Wednesday morning to deal with the wreckage and try to figure out exactly what occurred with the plane.

Pictured is 19-year-old pilot Tyler Rice.

The pilot, Tyler Rice of Fly Free Skydiving out of Festus, Mo., parachuted from the plane, a silver-and-blue Cessna 182, according to emergency radio dispatch. He was located by a local farmer in the area of 2745 Kidd Lake Road — nearly two miles from the crash site.

“He actually contacted his mechanic back in Festus. The mechanic informed him that due to the problems he was experiencing that he should go ahead and eject from the plane,” Rohlfing said.

Monroe County EMS responded to check on the pilot and determined he was not injured.

A search for the crashed plane ensued, with personnel surveying a stretch of countryside from Kidd Lake Road north to the area of Outlet Road near Chalfin Bridge.

A similar crash involving a skydiving plane out of the same Festus airport occurred June 14, 2014, with the 21-year-old pilot veering a single-engine Cessna over a Valmeyer cornfield before parachuting to safety after that plane had experienced mechanical problems.

No injuries were reported in that crash.

(with additional reporting from Spencer Michelson)

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