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'It was trees or interstate': Thankful pilot talks crash landing on I-10
BATON ROUGE - I-10 closed overnight and reopened early Saturday morning as officials towed a small plane from the grassy embankment where it had been parked since crash landing along the interstate Wednesday.
I-1o East near the EBR/Ascension parish lines was closed from about midnight to 4 a.m. between Friday and Saturday.
WBRZ was first to interrupt programming and report the plane went down Wednesday morning.
The pilot was thankful to be alive after engine problems forced him to bring his aircraft down on a busy interstate Wednesday morning.
The plane went down around 10 a.m. on I-10 east past Highland Road. State police say the aircraft landed on the interstate and rolled into the tree line alongside the roadway. Only the pilot was inside the private aircraft at the time.
Troopers and emergency personnel are currently on the scene of an incident involving a private airplane on I-10 near the EBR/Ascension Parish line. The plane crash landed on I-10 with 1 person on board. Minor injuries only. Updates to follow. pic.twitter.com/kFcI3Gnc1e— LA State Police (@LAStatePolice) April 3, 2019
James Ritter said he was about halfway back to Louisiana Regional Airport in Gonzales when the engine stuttered and a propeller went dead, forcing him to make the landing. Ritter said he had to make a split second decision on where to bring his plane down.
"It was either trees or interstate, and that looked like a pretty good runway!" Ritter told WBRZ.
State police are calling the incident an 'emergency landing', but Ritter said it was unlike any landing he's ever had to make.
"I call it a crash," Ritter said. "Thank the lord that I'm walking away, first and foremost, but that's definitely considered a crash in my book."
> Click HERE to hear the full air traffic recording
Ritter said he "skimmed" the top of an 18-wheeler as he came down, no doubt surprising the commuters on the ground. A woman who was caught in that interstate traffic described what she saw to WBRZ.
"I was wondering what he was doing so low" Brooke Everett said. "As soon as I realized something was wrong with the plane, it took a sharp right turn and wrecked into the trees."
Everett said she pulled over immediately to check on the pilot.
"I was just praying for the guy as he was going down," she said. "I'm actually CPR-certified so... In my head I was thinking if something's wrong, I have to go help."
Ritter walked away shaken up but unharmed, and officials say no one else was hurt.
All lanes have since reopened on the interstate, but police say the aircraft will be left in place overnight to allow the FAA to investigate the incident.
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