Two small planes crash in St. Charles

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 26, 2009


TAFT—The pilot of a vintage biplane was injured Monday after his plane flipped as it taxied down a private runway in Taft, said authorities with the St. Charles Sheriff’s Office.

Lucien Triche, 64, of Taft, was taken to St. Charles Parish Hospital around 12:15 p.m. Monday with a few broken bones, but no life-threatening injuries, said Sgt. Dwayne LaGrange, public information officer for the St. Charles Sheriff’s Office. As of Monday evening, Triche remained hospitalized in stable condition.

The crash Monday was the second aircraft accident in St. Charles Parish in two days. In Ama on Sunday, around 4:20 p.m., two men were killed after their small plane veered off of a private runway into some trees during takeoff. The crash occurred about 12 miles from Monday’s crash. Both incidents are still under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

Authorities said Monday’s accident occurred on a runway on Triche’s property adjacent to Dow Chemical’s St. Charles Operations plant in Taft. LaGrange said early reports indicate that the plane flipped, breaking a back rudder and damaging the engine. He said Triche, who is an experienced pilot, and an unidentified mechanic were working on the plane, a Boeing/Stearman A75, Monday morning before the accident.

Investigators with the FAA said Triche was performing a maintenance-related “high-speed taxi” on the airstrip when the accident occurred. The mechanic told authorities that the plane was having ignition problems earlier in the day. He had replaced a malfunctioning switch, and Triche was taking the plane for a test run.

Sunday’s crash involved a single-engine RV-6 airplane at the St. Charles Parish Airport around 4:20 p.m. The plane veered left on takeoff and crashed into some woods near the end of the runway, LaGrange said.

The victims of the fatal crash are James F. Miller, 61, of Gretna, and Wendell Lee Collins, 42, an Air Force lieutenant colonel who headed Tulane University’s Air Force ROTC detachment.

A preliminary Federal Aviation Administration report on Sunday’s accident says the single-engine airplane, which was registered to and piloted by Miller, veered off the runway and hit some trees as it was taking off. Authorities do not know if Miller had complete control of the craft when the crash occurred.