The quick actions of a maintenance man are being credited with preventing what could have been a tragedy after a small plane crashed Weber Road Thursday.
John Blaha, owner of A & M Maintenance Services at Bolingbrook Clow International Airport, was inside his business at the airport when he heard the engine of a plane sputter shortly after takeoff at 10:20 a.m.
“I knew immediately the plane engine was in trouble, so I went outside to see what was going on,” Blaha said.
Within two minutes of takeoff from the airport, the pilot of a four-passenger, single propeller Mooney M-20 aircraft was forced to attempt a crash landing on Weber Road near the airport.
“When he took off it sounded like he couldn’t develop full power and I could hear the engine sputtering,” Blaha said. “At about 300 feet he banked and tried to return to the airport heading north.”
Blaha drove a few hundred yards to the intersection of Weber Road and Lily Cache Lane, where the pilot, who was not identified as of press time, had landed the plane in the northbound lanes of Weber Road just north of Lily Cache Lane.
On the way down the plane hit the top of a tree near Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, then narrowly missed a traffic signal at the intersection before coming to rest in the northbound lanes of Weber Road just north of Lily Cache Lane.
Once the plane was on the ground, Blaha ran to it, reached into the cockpit and turned of fthe engine.
“I just wanted to make sure secure the plane, to make sure it didn’t blow up or catch fire, so I turned off the gas and the mags,” Blaha said.
Neither the pilot nor a female passenger in the plane were seriously injured, said Lt. Ken Teppel, spokesman for the Bolingbrook Police Department.
“The pilot did an excellent job of landing the craft at a time when there is a lot of traffic there,” Teppel said. “It is five lanes of traffic and he was able to get the plane down without contacting any vehicles.”
Teppel also praised Blaha for his quick actions.
“He was out here on the scene about 30 seconds after the crash and was able to turn off the gas,” Teppel said. “Who knows what might have happened otherwise?”
Blaha, a 1973 graduate of Lewis University, where he earned a degree in aviation maintenance, said his contribution was nothing special.
“I just wanted to make sure the plane was turned off and everybody was all right,” he said. “It was very fortunate there was no injuries in this case.”
Blaha has operated A & M Maintenance Services since 2000, and said he has heard hundreds of planes take off from Clow, but never heard one in trouble until yesterday.
“I knew immediately it was a problem, the way it was sputtering,” he said. “I’ve heard a lot of planes, but this was the first time one sounded like it was having trouble getting power.”
Police cordoned off nearby roads, re-routing traffic for about an hour before opening up the intersection to traffic in all directions.
Two of the plane’s three propellers bent and a wing tip was damaged from the crash.
As of noon Thursday, officials from the national Transportation Safety Board were on the scene assessing the site.
“They are the experts, and until they tell us what went wrong, we won’t speculate,” Teppel said.
No citations were given to the pilot.
“That’s something that NTSB gets involved with, not us,” Teppel said.
Teppel said the pilot and the other passenger were shaken up, but did not appear to have serious or life threatening injuries.