ST. DAVID– A man is fortunate to have escaped injury after he lost altitude while piloting a recreational aircraft and crash landed into a tree canopy while flying in St. David late Thursday evening.
“That’s probably a once-in-a-career call,” said Sergeant Ross Dubois of the Madawaska Police Department who responded to the scene to help with crowd control.
Interim Madawaska Fire Chief Peter Parent said his department received the call about the crash at 8:22 p.m. Thursday evening. He reported that 18 responders from the Madawaska Rescue Team went to the scene to assess the situation where they found the pilot, Luke Beaulieu, of St. David suspended in the tree just below the aircraft.
Beaulieu was flying his powered power glider (PPG), a member of the ultralight family of recreational aircraft, above his family’s property along Route 1 in St. David when he noticed he was losing altitude as he attempted to maneuver a turn.
Parent said Beaulieu appeared in good health when they arrived on the scene, but the responders were concerned with his precarious position below the aircraft that was still dangling about 60 feet high in the branches of the pine trees that broke its fall. When the responders determined that the department lacked the necessary experience and equipment to remove Beaulieu from the tree, they called in reinforcements. Andrew Marquis of Marquis Tree Service arrived on the scene shortly before a crew of seven high-angle climbers from the Edmundston Fire Department.
“Marquis brought his experience and equipment for tree climbing,” said Parent.
Beaulieu conversed and joked with the rescue crews while they worked to first unstrap him from the glider to relocate him to a nearby tree placing him out of the immediate potential danger of the glider falling on top of him. Once he was relocated, the crews then lowered him safely to the ground at approximately 10:15 p.m. An ambulance crew checked him over and found him to be uninjured.
“I was just hanging out in the tree for a couple of hours,” said Beaulieu.
“He was very lucky,” said Parent. “It could have been a lot worse.”
When Beaulieu noticed he was losing altitude, he looked for the closest spot to land, which happened to be the canopy of an old tree farm. Parent said that because the treetops were all even, the landing was actually quite soft compared to what it might have been in a natural forest with mixed trees.
Beaulieu agreed with the assessment of the landing, saying it was an “ideal location in the top of the evergreens.”
“What a soft landing it was,” he said. “I was like, wow, this is just like a Serta mattress.”
His family, who were watching from a nearby field as Beaulieu flew, and crashed, his craft, rushed to the trees to check on his condition.
“It was all part of my strategy, I wanted to put on a grand finale,” joked a safe and sound Beaulieu the morning after the incident.
His nephew Josh Beaulieu, who works as a paramedic and firefighter in Connecticut and was visiting for the holiday, talked him through the situation until help arrived, reminding him to stay as still as possible, but to also keep his legs moving to prevent loss of circulation.
“It was great,” said Beaulieu. “I was like, wow, I’m really on top of the world now. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
Though he was happy to have his feet on the ground after the rescue, Beaulieu said one of his first thoughts was, “How am I going to get my plane down?”
Beaulieu purchased the aircraft a little more than a month ago, and has only been flying for three or four weeks. A license or specific training is unnecessary for these types of vehicles. In fact, the only crashes the FAA requires a pilot to report are those involving injury or death. Beaulieu said the incident would not keep him from flying again, however.
“If I can get this down this afternoon,” he said Friday morning, “then I might take it out again tonight.”
Parent thanked Marquis and the high-angle rescue team from Edmundston for their quick response to the scene.
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