Jan. 16–SANTA FE — It took rescue crews 2 1/2 hours to locate a pilot who crashed his single-engine plane in rough terrain south of Santa Fe on a brutally cold Monday night.
The flyer suffered serious injuries and was recovering Tuesday at a local hospital.
A press release form the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office says the pilot, who was flying from Kansas to the Santa Fe Municipal Airport, called 911 from his cell phone around 8 p.m. after he crashed east of the Ranchos San Marcos subdivision off N.M. 14. Deputies were finally able to locate him around 10:30 p.m.
Santa Fe County Fire Department Assistant Chief Martin Vigil was on the scene and said the deputies who located the pilot gave him blankets to prevent hypothermia.
"It’s important for people to know how cold it was," Vigil said. "There were pretty brutal conditions throughout the night."
The National Weather Service’s timeline records show that temperatures in the area ranged from 26 degrees down to 21 over the period searchers were looking for the pilot, with the wind chill as low as 6 degrees.
Vigil said rescuers had to get to the crash site with four-wheel-drive SUVs because it was too windy for aircraft.
The pilot, whose name and age were not provided, was transported by ground to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in critical condition with back, leg and arm injuries. The plane was left mostly intact, Vigil said.
The pilot told deputies his plane "iced" as he flew through a storm and couldn’t get enough lift. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.
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