SOUTH BEND — Mere moments before the small four-seat plane touched down on the runway today, a powerful gust of wind blew across the airport.
What happened next took less time than it takes to read this sentence.
The plane’s wing lifted, air traffic observers later said, pushing the plane’s nose down into the ground. The plane then cartwheeled back to front, the force ripping the plane’s single engine from the fuselage and shattering its propeller.
The plane then righted itself, landing upright, on its wheels just before noon.
The pilot — still unidentified but believed to be from Illinois — was trapped inside the plane’s crushed front half, reportedly with a fractured leg.
Firefighters had to use the jaws of life to rip open the door and remove the pilot. He was then taken by ambulance to a South Bend hospital, where he was listed in serious, but stable, condition. There were no passengers on board.