BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — It was a close call for a Blount County couple over the Memorial Day weekend. They say they are extremely lucky to be alive.
“Just before that I told her to brace herself,” pilot Wayne Lequire said.
Lequire has flown planes for nearly 50 years and owns several. He has a private air strip on his property and enjoys taking his companion, Pam Kagley, along for rides in the sky.
But on Sunday, Lequire had to make a split decision to land while up in the air over Walland Gap.
“I was headed over to Seymour airpark and the engine just quit,” Lequire explained. “It just totally quit. I lost 100% of power instantly. Never could retrieve it.”
Acting fast, Lequire had to land his plane but everything on the ground was nothing but woods. Then he saw a cleared spot at UT’s East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center.
He said, “It was hard. It collapsed all the landing gear under it. In fact, we had trouble getting out of the door because the landing gear was up in the door.”
The pilot missed the fields at the AgResearch Center because of a lack of altitude but was able to touchdown at 30 mph deeper into the woods.
Lequire said, “On the side of a hill so I had told her we’re going down the hard way.”
“I didn’t even brace,” Kagley said. “It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t because my arms and everything was all contorted behind me.”
According to Lequire, the plane bounced about 20 feet when it landed and he got a little banged up. He broke his nose.
He said, “The metal of the seat broke and that allowed my body to plunge forward, and this part hit the dash and it had separated almost to a knife edge so that’s what caught me.”
Both survivors have some bruises too. After getting out of the plane safely they walked for about 3 and a half hours until the call was made for help. Their phones were unavailable at the time and Lequire was bleeding from his nose the entire time.
“The fact is the logging road wasn’t 200 feet from the airplane, but we couldn’t see it,” Lequire said. “Then we got on top of the hill looking for clearings, where these tall trees ar. If you see a cleared area you think ‘well, there has to be road there, maybe.’ None. We couldn’t see anything.”
Kagley said, “It was silent.”
“Nothing,” Lequire continued. “So we went out the hard way but we drive in there now and we think ‘wow, if we had just found this road’ but we didn’t. But if I had just 500 more feet, I would’ve made the bottom too, so hindsight is 20/20.”
Even though the incident happened, Lequire and Kagley said it won’t keep them from flying in the future.