Brewery Employees Save Pilot From Downed Plane

Employees at Hangar 24, a microbrewery in Redlands, rush toward a plane crash to help save a pilot just minutes before the downed aircraft was engulfed in flames.

A truck driver for a Redlands microbrewery said when he saw a plane crash right in front of him, he didn't have time to think. He just ran.

"He hit right in front of us and started sliding down the street," said Wolfgang Loew.

"As soon as he was down, (coworker Tim Johnson) started yelling for someone to call 911, and I just started running," said the 62-year-old. "By the time it settled and flipped, a small fire was already started."

Loew and a coworker, Joe Savage, raced to the crash site.

"I kind of helped him away from the aircraft," said Loew, who is a Vietnam veteran. "When the aircraft finally settled down and in a stopped position, it was actually upside down. (The pilot) was able to release his harness and drop himself to the ground."

The Good Samaritans helped get the pilot, a 45-year-old Redlands man, away from the aerobatic biplane, said Redlands city spokesman Carl Baker.

"We saw the fuel was coming and the fire was already started underneath," said Savage, lead brewer at Hangar 24.


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Johnson grabbed a fire extinguisher and made an attempt to control the blaze, but it was too late, said Savage.

"By the time we got him over to the curb, the whole thing was going up in flames," said Savage.

The crash happened at 8:50 a.m. on Sessums Drive (map), a road adjacent to the Redlands Municipal Airport. The aircraft skidded about 100 yards and sideswiped Savage's car.

Loew said the plane's initial pass was too low.

"I thought, 'geez, he's only 800 feet above us,'" said Loew. "He started to climb and all of a sudden, I saw his nose roll down. And I thought, 'hell, he's going to the ground.'"

The pilot, the only occupant in the plane, was taken to Loma Linda Hospital. He complained of back pain and lacerations to his head, said Baker.

"I was a Vietnam vet and I've seen guys sit in there and burn," said Loew. "We got to get to him before he starts burning -- not a pretty picture. It's not a pretty picture."

The FAA and NTSB have been notified of the crash, said Baker.

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