A Colorado man is in critical condition in a Flagstaff hospital following a Tuesday night plane crash just east of Cottonwood.
While the investigation into the incident continues, a lack of fuel has been offered as the preliminary cause of the crash.
According to Cottonwood police reports, the plane was being flown by Donald Arthur Duffield, 51, of Colorado Springs, Colo., when fuel problems caused him to put the plane down about three miles short of the Cottonwood Airport.
"The investigation revealed the aircraft appeared to be on final approach to Runway 32 at the Cottonwood Airport when it ran out of fuel. (One wing was punctured during the collision and the fuel tank was dry.) The pilot was at an altitude of 50 to 75 feet AGL (above ground level) when he struck power lines that ran at about a 75-degree angle to his flight path. After striking the middle group of the multiple power lines at that location, the aircraft descended until it impacted with the ground," the Cottonwood police narrative stated.
"Preliminary evidence suggests the aircraft contacted the ground with its landing gear, traveled across the ground for approximately 500 feet, and then vaulted (once the nose/propellor impacted a small berm)."
The plane appeared to have gone airborne again for a brief instant as it cart-wheeled onto its roof and into its final resting place. The plane suffered substantial damage to its complete structure.
That resting place was approximately one quarter mile west of Arizona 260 just south of Ogden Ranch Road.
Emergency medical service and fire personnel were notified by a passing motorist. Units from the Verde Rural Fire District, Cottonwood Fire Department, Camp Verde Fire Department and Cornville-Page Springs Fire Department all rolled to the scene.
"(Duffield) was already outside the plane when we arrived," said Verde Rural Fire District chief Don Eberle.
Attempts were made to stabilize Duffield at the scene and fly him to Flagstaff on the Department of Public Safety's Ranger helicopter but, according to Eberle, the patient "became too combative." Duffield was taken by ambulance to Verde Valley Medical Center where he was finally stabilized and then shipped to Flagstaff. As of Friday morning, Duffiled was listed in critical condition with a pair of broken wrists, a broken neck and multiple face lacerations.
The crash is being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Cottonwood police.
"We have taken blood samples and are awaiting toxicology reports," said Lt. Keith Porter of the Cottonwood police.
Duffield reportedly told rescuers at the scene "I ran out of fuel."
The point of origin of the flight that brought Duffield to Cottonwood was not known.
The plane in question was a single-engine Cessna 182R Skylane.
Duffield reportedly rented the plane from Arrow Aviation Aug. 31 in Colorado Springs. When this paper attempted to contact Arrow about the crash and to gain further information about the plane were greeted with the following statement, offered by an employee identified only as "Wayne."
"I don't have any comments at the moment. I just don't have enough information."
While the plane might have been rented in Colorado Springs, a check of the Federal Aviation Administration web site revealed that the plane is a 37-year-old aircraft owned by Santa Fe Jet Center Inc. of Santa Fe, N.M.
Power knocked out
Duffield's interaction with Arizona Public Service power lines left some 3,000 customers in the Camp Verde, McGuireville and Rimrock areas without power for a significant portion of the evening.
"It was a transmission line that went down," said Gary Basham, design project director for APS in Cottonwood.
Basham said the plane clipped the center two of four lines that cross the landscape near the site of the crash. He was surprised that all four lines weren't clipped.
"There is just no way to know where a plane is going to come out of the sky," Basham said.
Although APS crews responded quickly to repair the power line, bringing all customers back to full power took some time, with power fully restored by midnight Wednesday.
"When a line like that goes down, you have to bring it back up slowly."
APS crews remained at the scene of the crash through the day Wednesday making additional repairs.
Recent area crashes
It has been a little more than three months since the last Cottonwood area plane crash. A Prescott flight instructor and a student from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott crashed a Cessna 172 in a field near the Cottonwood Airport May 24 while practicing touch-and-go landings. A sudden gust of wind was given as the cause of that crash.
Wednesday's crash was also the second in the greater Verde Valley area in a week. Mike Harter, 50, a Manassass, Va. man, died Aug. 29 after his plane slammed into the floor of Sterling Canyon and burned. According to the Coconino County Sheriff's Office, that crash is still under investigation as well.