WEST DEER (KDKA) — Four people were hospitalized after a field trip ended in a plane crash.

Two 13-year-old students from Charles Houston Middle School, a 42-year-old science teacher and the 57-year-old pilot were injured when the plane skidded off the runway at Rock Airport and went down an embankment in West Deer.

“Houston Middle School has what they call a ‘Flying Eagle’ field trip and they’ve done this for years at our facility,” West Deer Twp. Police Chief John Lape said.

The pilot had just returned with two students aboard around 10 a.m. Then two other students boarded.

“Upon our arrival, we noticed we had a small aircraft off the edge of the runway. We had four individuals trapped in the aircraft,” Lape said.

Before emergency crews arrived, four PennDOT workers training nearby sprung into action when they saw the plane veer off the runway and go over the 100-ft embankment.

“Actually, they made sure the aircraft was shut off,” Lape said. “They opened up the hood to make sure there was no overheating and make sure no sparks would ignite the fuel that was leaking which was coming out of the wing on the right side of the aircraft.”

“I noticed the fuel coming out from under the wings – the fuel pump was still on,” Dwight Ashbaugh, a PennDOT worker, said. “We had the pilot, even though with his injuries, he was able to shut the fuel pump down.”

Eric Shingledecker, a PennDOT worker who is also an EMT, knew what to do.

“I went to the one that seemed to be the most injured and as I was checking him out, I was asking everybody else questions to assess them at the same time,” he explains, “and I just started putting shirts over their wounds to stop the bleeding on the one that seemed to be in worse shape.”

The PennDOT workers are being called heroes, but they don’t see it that way.

Both students and the science teacher was taken to Allegheny General Hospital. The pilot was taken to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital.

The National Transportation Safety Board has taken over the investigation.


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