PASCO, Wash. – Shortly after 7 a.m. on Tuesday morning, a plane expected to land at the Tri-Cities Airport in Pasco is believed to have had issues with it’s landing gear and crashed causing it to slide across the runways before catching on fire.
Firefighters at Pasco Fire Station 82 on airport property responded within minutes, saving all ten passengers on board and extinguishing the fire.
I spoke with PFD Public Information Officer Ben Shearer about the training firefighters at Station 82 go through to be positioned at the airport and prepare for these crashes.
“We have you’re basic firefighter training for the staff here at this station,” says Shearer. “But we train them on all of the different aircrafts that come through the Pasco Airport in order to be ready when they land.”
Ironically, the crash happened the day before PFD and the airport have their emergency training every three years.
Shearer tells me this is a normal training they do every year through the Federal Aviation Association and National Transportation Safety Board to make sure they have the right procedures and timing to handle crashes or other situations at the airport.
“That’s what it’s all about,” says Shearer. “Getting there quickly, efficiently and getting people away from the scene as much as possible. Aircraft are kinda like motorhomes, and when they burn, they burn very quickly.”
Shearer told me the pilot usually knows when the plane is going to crash or is having equipment issues and tells the control tower so firefighters can be ready when the plane arrives.
Shearer says there is not a confirmation as to what caused the crash, but the pilot did not have any warning lights and there were no issues until the plane hit the runway.
Shearer says the continued trainings they do at the airport are why everything went according to plan today.
The private plane was carrying the medical staff for the Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute. PCLI has 17 locations throughout the northwest and with only 11 surgeons, flying is the quickest way to get staff to locations for operation days.
Site Manager for PCLI Kris Gamboa says she was at the airport when the plane was arriving to pick up a nurse scheduled to work at their Kennewick location.
The plane was making a quick stop as it had to drop off a surgeon in Lewiston.
“As I was pulling into the parking lot, I could see the plane coming down and everything looked normal,” says Gamboa. “As I walked into Bergstroms Airport, I heard a loud pop and saw lots of black smoke. The airport wouldn’t let us out on the tarmac so I didn’t know if anyone was alive at the time.”
Gamboa said the institute cancelled all of the operations scheduled for their Kennewick and Lewiston locations for today and tomorrow because it wouldn’t be safe to have the survivors in the operating room on the same day.
“The passengers are on a van heading back to our corporate office in Chehalis to collect themselves for a few days,” says Gamboa.
The investigation by the FAA and the NTSB could take up to a year with interviews and analyzing each part of the plane.