Plane Makes Emergency Landing On Minnesota Highway
A small plane has crash-landed and hit a vehicle on a Minnesota interstate, with no injuries reported
An award-winning aerobatic pilot made an emergency landing on a Minnesota highway Wednesday night — and though he crashed into an SUV in the process, all parties involved walked away unscathed.
The plane, a single-engine Bellanca Viking, landed on Interstate 35W in Arden Hills around 9:15 p.m. and collided with an SUV, the Minnesota State Patrol said in a news release obtained by PEOPLE.
The driver of that SUV, Brittany Yurik, told WCCO-TV that she only saw the plane coming at her “probably one second” before the collision, which was captured in a dramatic video shared by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
“Not that I would ever wish to get hit by a plane, but out of all the planes that could’ve hit me, I’m glad it was him,” she said.
“Him” was pilot Craig Gifford, a 52-year-old member of the U.S. aerobatics flying team who previously won a bronze medal representing the country at an international competition in 2017, the Associated Press reported.
Gifford made the emergency landing with one passenger by his side, and both were uninjured, as was Yurik.
“I talked to [Gifford] last night,” Yurik told WCCO. “He’s very kind. He was very apologetic. He explained to me what happened, and I just can’t believe we’re all okay. I think he was feeling the same thing.”
Witness Janell Harwell told the outlet that she watched the plane make its shocking landing, but was able to slam on her brakes in time to avoid the crash. She said she called 911 and left her car to check on the people involved.
“I kept yelling, ‘Are you guys okay? Does anybody need help?’ And then the airplane door opened, and the woman and man came out and I literally was just flooded with relief,” she said. “Like, just so glad that they got out of that and [were] walking away.”
Harwell said she spoke to Gifford, who said his engines had failed and he was forced to make an emergency landing. She added that he said he’d tried as hard as he possibly could not to hit the SUV.
“When he hit her, he was pretty distraught because he just didn’t want to hurt anybody,” she said. “To think that three people walked away from that without a scratch on them is just… someone was sitting on their shoulder last night.”
Dick Knapinski, spokesman for the Experimental Aircraft Association, told the AP that Gifford’s emergency landing execution was “textbook,” and that his aerobatic training certainly helped.
“Pilots are trained to deal with emergency engine problems and things like that if you have to make an emergency landing, and so the combination of that training and certainly [Gifford’s] aerobatic training really paid off in this situation,” he said.
The Minnesota State Patrol said an investigation into the crash remains open and active.