FAYETTE COUNTY, Tenn. — A 74-year-old pilot survived a close brush with death after his plane crashed and burst into flames in a field shortly after taking off from the Fayette County Airport Wednesday afternoon.
The Fayette County Sheriff's Office said the pilot, Floyd Yarbro of Kenton, Tennessee, escaped the wreckage without any serious injuries and was taken to a Memphis hospital to be checked out.
They said he had just left the airport around 3:30 p.m. when he experienced some type of engine trouble and tried to circle back.
"It looked like he was having trouble getting up. It looked like he was coming down and then going up," said witness Johny Vanlandingham.
About a football field's distance from the airport, the pilot attempted a rough landing in a field, but the sheriff's office said his front landing gear snapped off as he did so.
“I saw his back wheels hit and when it did, it threw his nose forward," said Vanlandingham.
The pilot had just enough time to get out of the plane before it burst into flames, Vanlandingham said. Within minutes, he said the plane was fully engulfed.
"He was fine, he was just scared as anybody would be, Vanlanginham said of the pilot.
"To hear that he got out alive that’s a blessing with all the smoke that was coming and the flames. That’s wonderful, I’m glad to hear that," said Iris Jackson, who lives nearby.
The plane is a single-engine Beech B19, according to federal aviation records. It was manufactured in 1974, but it's still unclear why the engine failed.
“We don’t know what the cause will be at this point. The FAA and the NTSB have been called. It will be tomorrow before they’ll be able to come out and begin their investigation," said Ray Garcia with the Fayette County Sheriff's Office.
The plane is registered to an Arkansas clinic, but it's unclear what connection the pilot has to that.