INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Two southern Indiana men whose ultralight plane crashed
into a treetop and became wedged in limbs some 60 feet above the ground
spent four uneasy hours trapped inside the unstable aircraft before rescuers
lowered them to safety, authorities said.
Neither pilot James Cutler, 65, of Winslow, nor his passenger, 59-year-old
Richard Yahraus of Corydon, was injured when the plane crashed about 5 p.m.
Friday as it returned to the French Lick Airport, about 50 miles northwest
of Louisville, Ky., for a landing.
But Indiana Conservation Officer Jeffrey Milner said Saturday both men were
trapped for four hours inside the tilted aircraft, afraid to move, lest it
topple to the ground.
The two men had been pushed together, making their wait - and their efforts
not to jar the plane - all the more uncomfortable as the sun set and night
arrived, Milner said.
“They were trying not to move at all. They were sitting as still as they
could for four hours,” Milner said. “These guys are absolutely lucky to be
He said the men owe their rescue to Indiana Conservation Officer Jim Hash,
the coordinator of the state conservation agency’s Cave Rescue Team. Milner
said Hash took his skills in using tethers and ropes into the treetop, where
the men were marooned.
Hash first secured the plane to the tree’s upper branches so that the
unstable craft would no longer shift. As he worked above, crews moved a
bucket truck with a 60-foot boom to the edge of a tree line where the plane
had crashed, just south of the airport.
Hash then attached harnesses and ropes to men, moving them one at a time to
the bucket. All three men were lowered to the ground about 9 p.m. Friday.
Hash said in a statement that the men “were both thankful to have their feet
on the ground” after their ordeal.
Milner said the pilot told investigators that just before the crash his
engine started producing less power and he couldn’t climb high enough to
avoid the trees as he approached the airport for a landing.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the Orange County Sheriff’s
Department are investigating the crash.
Milner said most of the rescue was conducted at night, but emergency crews
brought in lighting equipment to guide the work.
Milner said Yahraus, the plane’s passenger, had gone up in the aircraft with
Cutler because he was considering buying the plane.
“He was interested in buying the plane, but after four hours in a tree maybe
he’s reconsidered,” Milner joked.