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Sun, Sep 24, 2006

Another Cirrus 'Chute Save

Four Survive Crash In Jamaica

ANN RealTime Update, 0011 EST, 09.24.06: The general media reports on this accident are fairly bizarre and are probably the result of misinterpretations made by non-aviation trained media people trying to report things for which they do not have the proper background/knowledge. We'll update the cause for this deployment as soon as documented facts become available. Regardless, a pilot and his passengers found some mode of peril for which they thought the chute deployment was necessary... which sure beats the usual alternative. -- ANN E-I-C Jim Campbell

A Cirrus SR20 went down in the hills east of Kingston, Jamaica on Friday. The four occupants escaped serious injury thanks to the aircraft's installed Cirrus Airframe Parachute System.

The aircraft, registered to a Delaware leasing corporation, reportedly went down about 20 minutes after takeoff from the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston on its way to the Dominican Republic.

Of the four occupants, all were citizens of the Dominican Republic except 79-year-old American Ellison Gauding.

Details are sketchy at this point, but one of the two pilots aboard, 32-year-old Omar Valdes, told the Jamaica Observer the aircraft started leaking fuel from the right wing claiming, "...we get unbalanced and just went down to crash."

Valdes was unhurt, walking two miles from the crash site before meeting up with rescue personnel. He credits his and his passengers' survival to the parachute system.

Local residents were on the scene before rescue personnel and helped the passengers from the aircraft.

Farmer Vivian Davis said, "That's my farm over there and I heard a plane and I heard like the engine stopped and then five seconds after I heard a loud sound, which was the parachute and I saw the plane coming down. From where I was standing I could see everything and I just took off running and run up there and make sure everyone was all right."

Another resident who helped with the recovery told a similar tale of hearing an explosion, most likely the parachute rocket, and looking up to see the aircraft descending under the parachute's canopy.

The four occupants were taken to a local hospital by a Jamaican Defence Force Air wing. They were looked over and treated for minor injuries.

So far, Jamaican officials have not announced a formal investigation to determine the incident's cause, but the Observer reports the pilots were briefly questioned by Jamaican Defence Forces.



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