SOUTH BEND — Multiple police agencies are investigating the circumstances that led to a single-person plane crash-landing near the South Bend Motor Speedway on Monday.
The small, red aircraft crashed and came to a stop at the entrance of the Heather Ridge subdivision off of Grant Road in western St. Joseph County shortly before 4:40 p.m. on Monday.
The plane's pilot was not injured and no homes or other property were damaged in the crash, according to a release from St. Joseph County police. Investigators with Indiana State Police and the Federal Aviation Administration were also alerted.
Doug Cunningham, who lives at the intersection of Grant Road and Wild Heather Drive, said he and his wife were in their backyard Monday afternoon when the crash occurred.
"We visually did not see it, but we definitively heard a very loud crash," Cunningham said.
Thinking the sound was a car accident, Cunningham ran to his front yard to investigate.
"I went outside immediately and that’s when I saw this ultralight airplane crashed into a sign in our front yard," he said. "The pilot was out walking around. I immediately asked my wife to call 911 and get first responders rolling. The pilot asked me not to call the police but that wasn’t an option. A plane crashes in your front yard, of course you’re going to call the police."
Officials have not stated a reason for the crash, though Cunningham said the pilot indicated the engine in the plane had failed.
Police: Pilot showed signs of intoxication
Police say the pilot, a 61-year-old man from Mill Creek, Ind., failed a sobriety test and was arrested at the scene for operating while intoxicated. The Tribune generally does not name individuals who have not been formally charged with a crime.
The FAA defines an ultralight plane as an aircraft weighing under 254 pounds that can carry a single occupant. Beyond the weight limit, the FAA has set few requirements and does not mandate ultralight aircraft be registered or require a pilot's license for those who fly them.
Residents near the site of Monday's crash, however, say small aircraft need to be better regulated.
Cunningham said he's lived in the Heather Ridge subdivision for three years and has seen multiple planes "buzz" the neighborhood as they fly into the nearby Chain-O-Lakes Airport, some coming "within feet" of hitting his roof.
"It’s asking for trouble buzzing residential areas in small craft like that. This crash proves, without a shadow of a doubt, that these planes pose a danger to our community," Cunningham said.
He added that neighbors have seen the plane involved in Monday's crash circling the area before, jokingly calling it "The Red Baron."
A phone call to Chain-O-Lakes Airport was not immediately returned. Officials with the St. Joseph County Airport Authority declined to be interviewed and directed reporters to the FAA.
Brittany Trotter, a spokeswoman for the FAA, said the agency does not consider ultralight planes to be aircraft and is leaving the investigation of the incident to local law enforcement.
Email Marek Mazurek at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @marek_mazurek
This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: Plane crash lands near South Bend Motor Speedway; no injuries