Pilot in critical condition after crash landing


News staff writer

February 18, 2006

Christie Hessler hadn’t hiked the Weldon Wagon Trail near Husum, Wash., for a year and a half.

But for some inexplicable reason, she woke Thursday morning with an urge to do it.

As she was climbing up to the ridge, she heard the roar of a plane and turned to see a bright yellow Cessna 150 taking off from an air strip within a field.

The Acre coffee shop owner then resumed her hike.

Seconds later, she noticed the roar of the plane had muted — completely.

She turned in time to see it crash — nose first — into the the pilot’s own field.

The pilot inside was Bernard Elsner, 64. He survived.

His condition was serious enough, however, that an emergency helicopter had to LifeFlight him from Skyline Hospital in White Salmon to Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland.

As of Thursday, he was in critical but stable condition in ICU at Emanuel. with a broken eyesocket, broken cheekbone, bruises on the brain, and possible broken vertebrae.

A professional pilot —

Elsner is a retired Delta pilot, who, two of his friends said, flew the Portland to Tokyo route non-stop when he was still working.

“He’s a good pilot,” said Gene Williams, a 20-year friend and 60-year pilot.

Williams heard about the crash and drove straight to the site.

Judging by the clues — an unbroken propeller and the twisted plane — Williams thinks Elsner had taken off from the air strip on his own property a few hundred yards away and shortly thereafter, his engine quit.

Rather than fly straight and land on the highway or in a ravine, Williams believes Elsner tried to turn into an adjacent field.

He crashed less than a half-mile from his own 9,000-square-foot house.

“He got off the ground, started to make a turn,” Williams said. “His engine quit over here. He probably thought he could make the field.”

Making the call —

After seeing the crash, Hessler first called her friend Brent Foster. Then she called 9-1-1.

Foster, of Mosier, called Greg deBruler and both of them drove up to the property to see how they could help.

They traveled across the field by foot, eventually spotting the plane.

When they reached Elsner, they saw he was in bad condition.

“His body was cocked out of the window,” deBruler said. “His head was laying where the window would have been. He seemed to be supporting himself. My guess was that he tried to get out but didn’t have the strength. His legs were trapped in debris.”

DeBruler noticed gas leaking from the plane. So he disconnected the battery cable and removed it.

Shortly thereafter, the Husum Fire Department and two Skyline Hospital Ambulances arrived.

Elsner was conscious when White Salmon Fire Department used Jaws of Life to remove him from the plane.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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