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Sun, Jan 25, 2004

Student Pilot In Critical Condition

Survives Crash Into New Mexico Police Station

Jeff Lewis, 32, is in critical condition at the University of New Mexico Hospital after his B36 crashed into a police station about 400 yards short of the runway at Four Corners Regional Airport in Farmington (NM) Thursday night.

Ironically, Lewis was saved by the very firefighters with whom he used to work. Fire officials say Lewis left the department five months ago to pursue an aviation career. He was training with Mesa Airlines.

"He always had a passion to fly," said friend and firefighter Nick Mirzlak. "Jeff was like a brother, easy going and outgoing. He did everything 100 percent."

Lewis suffered severe head and facial injuries when his aircraft plunged through the roof of the Farmington Police Department building. No one on the ground was hurt, but ten prisoners being detained there were evacuated to another law enforcement facility immediately after the crash.

Lewis was extricated from the wreckage and rushed to San Juan Regional Medical Center. Later, he was airlifted to the University of New Mexico. Police say he was practicing touch-and-goes when his engine apparently lost power.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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