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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Couple Unhurt After Plane Crash-Lands at Fairgrounds

November 17, 2000|CATHERINE BLAKE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A Newport Beach pilot crash-landed at the Ventura County Fairgrounds on Thursday after his single-engine airplane lost power.

Tom McCormick and his wife, Susan, were shaken but uninjured in the 3:45 p.m. crash, which Susan McCormick said "sure beats Magic Mountain."

Tom McCormick was flying the Cessna 210 from Chino to his wife's parents' home in Santa Maria for the weekend when the engine quit near Ventura.

"We were in the hills and he kept saying, 'Look for a strip,' because everything around was winding," she said, standing in the parking lot after the crash-landing.

"We were going to land on the interstate, but there were too many cars, and the guy at the tower said he didn't think the beach would be a good idea," she said. "Then we were here and it was flat and long and straight, but we just had too much speed to avoid the fence."

The plane landed in a dirt lot designated for overflow parking on the west side of the fairgrounds. Deep tire marks could be seen in the dirt in back of the plane, which had ripped through the fence.

If not for hitting the fence and branches of a nearby tree, the plane would have survived the crash, the couple said.

Tom McCormick, 40, was visibly upset about the damaged plane. "It's totaled," he said, shaking his head.

Susan McCormick, 45, said she had been "afraid we would not make it out of this," even though her husband had been calm throughout the ordeal.

With tears in her eyes and clutching her cell phone, she said she tried to call her sister from the air to tell her that she loved her. But her sister was not home, and as the answering machine beeped, the plane hit the dirt. She joked that her sister would hear the crash on her answering machine.

Kevin Downey was sitting on the patio outside the Derby Club, an off-track betting facility, when he saw what he thought was a plane flying perilously low. "I was reading the paper and then I just saw it crash right there," the Oxnard resident said. "I ran in and said, 'A plane just crashed,' and the security guy thought I was nuts."

Downey said his horse won the race just as the plane crashed. He tried to tell Susan McCormick that it was her lucky horse.

She said her husband, a partner in a metal fabricating company, had been flying airplanes for about six years. He was going to attend some classes for pilots of Cessna classics in Santa Maria this weekend. She predicted he will still attend the classes, but they will drive a rental car instead of flying.

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