THE VIEW FROM ATOP a dirt pile shows the obstacles that Gary Cole was facing as he tried to land his troubled vintage airplane in the Verso woodlot in Freedom May 13. (Mellisa Seamans photo) (click for larger version)
May 17, 2012FREEDOM — Gary Cole, 71, of West Ossipee was airlifted to Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine to be treated for injuries sustained last Sunday, May 13, when his vintage plane crash-landed on a woodlot off Ossipee Lake Road.
According to Freedom Police Chief Josh Shackford, as of press time his condition had been upgraded from serious to fair.
It may take months for aviation officials to determine exactly what happened to cause Cole's plane to crash in Verso Paper Corp.'s woodlot, just a short distance from the Windsock Village airstrip.
The accident occurred just before 2 p.m. and appeared that the landing gear on Cole's plane struck a wood pile in the lot. Authorities at the scene were unclear whether Cole was attempting to head to the airstrip for landing or if he had just taken off when the airplane suffered some sort of mechanical failure, forcing Cole to try to land in the wood lot. Cole was able to get himself out of the plane prior to rescuers arriving. He was loaded into the ambulance and driven to the airstrip. From there he was loaded into the medical helicopter.
The vintage plane Cole was piloting, a 1936 Stinson SR-7B, is registered to Starfire Aviation, LLC of Conway, a corporation which lists Cole as its registered agent. Cole lives in Soaring Heights, a private aviation community that shares an airstrip with Windsock Village.
The plane remained in the woodlot, cordoned off with police tape, awaiting removal by a salvage company at the direction of Cole's insurance company, according to officials. From there, the National Transportation Safety Board will work to determine the cause of the crash.
Responding to the crash Sunday were police from Freedom, Madison, Ossipee, N.H. State Police, and Carroll County Sheriff's Department. West Ossipee Fire Department assisted Freedom Fire Department by preparing the landing zone for the helicopter.
Cole is an optometrist and has owned Conway Eye Care in Conway since 1969.