Bystanders save pilot after crash

EVERETT – Three roofers took a break from the afternoon heat Tuesday to drive a load of garbage to a county waste station across from Paine Field.

It is a trip the trio likely won’t forget.

The men witnessed an experimental plane take a nosedive into a fence and flip on its top at the county-run airport.

They also helped rescue the man inside the plane.

The pilot, whose identity was not released, was taken to a Seattle hospital as a precaution. His injuries were not believed to be life-threatening, Snohomish County Fire District 1 spokeswoman Leslie Hynes said.

No one else was hurt in the crash.

Jonathan Romig and Ruben Estrada, both of Everett, and Mike Rochester of Marysville were happy to hear that the man they found pinned in the cockpit was expected to survive.

The men saw the plane hit the fence and raced to the wreckage.

“It was a freak accident. It was something else to see this plane going upside down,” Estrada said. “I’m happy we were here to pull him out.”

The pilot, behind the controls of a Thorp T-18, departed the main runway and quickly radioed in that he was experiencing some problems and needed to land immediately, according to Bill Dolan, deputy airport director.

“There was too much speed and too little pavement and he overshot the runway,” Dolan said.

The plane crashed to the ground and flipped on its top on an airport service road. The still-spinning propeller shot rocks all over. The crash sounded like very loud fireworks, Romig said.

The men jumped out of their truck and ran to the plane.

The pilot was pinned in the cockpit. Romig and Estrada lifted the back of the plane about four feet and helped slide the pilot out of the wreckage, the men said. Rochester called for help.

The man appeared to have a head wound and was bleeding profusely, Romig said.

The men attempted to put pressure on the man’s wound to staunch the bleeding until firefighters from Paine Field and Fire District 1 arrived.

“He hit hard. I think he’s lucky to be alive,” Romig said.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

As for the three men who helped the pilot, they are thankful they were in the right place Tuesday.

“We wanted a break,” Rochester said. “I’m awful glad we did.”

Reporter Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463 or

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