Pilot’s Skill Enables Survival in California Plane Crash

Posted on Sep 20, 2014

It is not often that the Phoenix aviation accident attorneys at Curry, Pearson & Wooten are able to report on good news from a plane crash, but this week, 67-year-old pilot Tim Cassell gave us the opportunity to share what happens in a plane crash when emergency training pays off.


On Monday morning, September 15, Tim Cassell was preparing to leave from his home base of Reid-Hillview Airport in San Jose to go to Panamint Springs Resort airstrip in Death Valley, a commute he often makes. When Cassell had not landed at his destination, his wife alerted the authorities.


The Civil Air Patrol found an ELT signal around 1 a.m., but suspended the search due to difficult night conditions. The search resumed at 7 a.m., and Cassell was found south of Mount Whitney two hours later, and airlifted out at 1:30 p.m. with several broken bones and lacerations, over 24 hours after he went down.


A statement from Panamint Springs Resort later revealed what happened that day, and Mr. Cassell’s excellent pilotage is certainly to thank for his relatively minor injuries and quick rescue. While cruising at 13,000 feet, around 2,000 feet above the surrounding terrain of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the propeller of Cassell’s Piper Cherokee broke in half, throwing the engine dangerously off balance.


Cassell immediately pulled his throttle to idle and chose his emergency landing spot, a flat area of a canyon in Sequoia National Park. He activated his emergency locator transmitter (ELT) and stalled the plane just before impact to lose airspeed. Despite his injuries, Cassell attempted to find service for his cell phone, and was able to signal rescuers from his crash site.


We would like to commend Mr. Cassell on his superior ability to execute his emergency training under extreme pressure, and wish him a speedy recovery from his injuries.

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