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Lucky landing: Victims walk away from wrecked aircraft

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Federal officials from two agencies will spend the coming weeks reviewing a plane’s radar and audio recordings and interviewing a flight instructor and student, trying to understand what caused a plane to crash.

Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Indianapolis office on Tuesday afternoon started inspecting the scene of the plane crash in a field near the intersection of Combs and County Line roads in Greenwood. They’ve also requested assistance from the National Transportation and Safety Board, Greenwood assistant police chief Matthew Fillenwarth said.

Investigators will determine who was flying the plane at the time of the Tuesday morning crash, and where the instructor, Dennis Rumley, 65, of Greenwood, and his student, Brent Abshier, 38, of Indianapolis, were in their flight.

The damage from the crash caused fuel to start pouring out of the plane, and Greenwood police who were first on the scene immediately worried that the fuel could ignite, Fillenwarth said.

Rumley talked officers through how to operate the fuel shutoff valve and stop more fuel from spilling, Fillenwarth said.

Rumley’s head was cut during the crash, and he was taken to Franciscan St. Francis Health in Indianapolis. Abshier was treated for injuries at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital. Their injuries are not life-threatening.

“I think they both are probably feeling lucky to be alive,” Fillenwarth said.

Police agencies contact the Federal Aviation Administration after incidents involving aircraft, such as crashes or a plane skidding off a runway, Fillenwarth said.

The investigation could take weeks or months, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Tony Molinaro said.

The plane Rumley and Abshier were flying was leased by Jeff Air Pilot Services, a flight training program that operates from the Greenwood Municipal Airport. Officials don’t know whether the plane, a 38-year-old single engine fixed-wing Cessna, was leaving or heading to the airport, though the plane was following the path other planes take around the airport, Fillenwarth said. The crash was reported at 10:43 a.m.

Officials on Tuesday also were trying to figure out who was at the controls when the plane went down.

Both Rumley and Abshier were conscious and talking when emergency workers arrived. Rumley told Fillenwarth that the plane didn’t have enough RPMs to get enough airspeed before the crash, Fillenwarth said.

When the plane hit the ground it spun, causing the landing gear to fold and front and rear parts of the plane to break away, Fillenwarth said.

Both Rumley and Abshier got out of the aircraft on their own.

The field where the plane landed is bordered by houses, trees, power lines and roads, and is also near an apartment complex. Most residents who lived nearby didn’t hear the crash but raced to see what had happened after seeing news reports or hearing from friends and family that a plane was down near where they lived.

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