PHOTOS: Pilot stuck atop trees for hours after ultralight aircraft has engine failure above North Springfield Dam

Submitted 8 months ago
Created by
Eric Francis

Rescue effort took about seven hours to successfully complete Sunday

NORTH SPRINGFIELD - A doctor from Rutland ended up stuck atop a pair of 60-foot-tall trees inside an ultralight plane Sunday on a hillside overlooking the North Springfield Dam and the nearby Springfield Airport.

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    Dr. Mark Jacob shouted down to rescuers that he was unhurt and his aircraft appeared largely intact, but after more than five hours had passed Sunday afternoon technical rescue teams from several Vermont and New Hampshire fire departments were still working to get him safely down.

Even standing directly beneath it, it was difficult to see the small plane because of its green paint scheme

    Friends said that Jacob, an experienced pilot who owns three aircraft himself, was almost home after flying a friend’s ultralight aircraft from Saratoga, New York back to the Springfield Airport when the engine suddenly quit.

    Other pilots who were circling Springfield just before noon on Sunday saw Dr. Jacob having difficulty and contacted emergency responders as the bright green ultralight coasted down and then lodged itself on the top of the trees.

    The crashed aircraft remained level and upright and was clearly visible from the airport itself on the opposite side of the dam on a hillside overlooking Reservoir Road.

The plane is barely visible in the top center of the photo. The front of the plane is pointed to the left and the tail is visible on the right.  Springfield Firefighter Jim Esden (in an orange helmet) is in a tree just below the front of the ultralight.

    Springfield Police Officer Anthony Moriglioni was the first responder to find the plane after he parked in a driveway across from one of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dam buildings and ran up the wooded slope for nearly 600 yards until he came upon the plane and established that Jacob was not hurt.

    Springfield Fire Captain John Claflin, who was the incident commander on scene, then had to figure out how to get Jacobs safely down in an elaborate operation that was still underway late in afternoon.

Springfield Fire Captain John Claflin (right, speaking to Springfield Police Corporal Walter Morancy) was the incident commander for the rescue operation

Members of the Hartford Fire Department's Technical Rescue Team head for the trail to the scene

    Springfield and West Weathersfield firefighters, backed up by members of the technical rope rescue teams from the Hartford, Lebanon, and Hanover fire departments, set up operations on the thickly wooded forest floor below while crews with a large excavator began cutting a road up off an existing snowmobile trail into the site about a half-mile from the nearest paved road.

    Green Mountain Power, which already had line crews in the area, agreed to send a special tracked vehicle with a utility bucket on it that could be raised up quite high and the plan was to send that up to Jacob and have him climb into it.

    As the afternoon progress Springfield Firefighter Jim Esden used a climbing harness and ropes to ascend one of the nearby trees so he could talk to Jacob almost face to face.  Jacob could be heard calling down to firefighters that he was able to move freely around the small cockpit and was not getting fatigued or cramped in the tight quarters.  “I’m fine,” Jacob reassured the crews on the ground.

The Springfield Airport is visible on the other side of the dam operated by the Army Corps of Engineers

Springfield Firefighter Jim Esden climbed up to within a few feet of the plane while rescuers waited for the GMP vehicle

    By 4 p.m. the road had been cut clear through to the crash scene and the large specialized utility vehicle, which had been rushed over the mountains from Rutland with a state police escort to clear traffic out of its way, was being unloaded on Reservoir Road before beginning the climb up the improvised trail to the scene.

    Reports from the scene said that Dr. Jacob had been safely lowered to the ground at 5:30 p.m.

The plan was to bring Dr. Jacob down from the plane in the bucket of a tracked vehicle belonging to Green Mountain Power

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