Men injured in aircraft crash didn't plan to fly


Alachua County Sheriff's Lt. Steve Manard maneuvers the experimental aircraft that was damaged during an accident that left two men with serious injuries on Sunday evening.

Karen Voyles/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, November 1, 2010 at 10:40 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 12:30 a.m.

Two men were seriously injured Sunday when the parachute for an experimental aircraft was snagged by power lines. The parachute dragged the seat-belted men and their machine across a barbed wire fence and two lanes of a paved county road before coming to a stop. Both men are expected to survive, according to the Alachua County Sheriff's Office.

Daniel Gass, 52, of Keystone Heights, and Harold Hughes, 58, of Hawthorne, received critical injuries and were taken to Shands at the University of Florida following the accident at about 6:45 p.m. in an open field in the 22100 block of East County Road 1471, which is north of Hawthorne.

Sheriff's spokesman Lt. Steve Maynard said the Federal Aviation Administration was notified about the accident, but it might defer investigation to the Sheriff's Office.

"From what we understand, they had no intention of flight," Maynard said.

The men were strapped into the seats of what is sometimes called a trike. The experimental aircraft looks like a miniature airboat outfitted with one front and two rear wheels. Like an airboat, a motor built in behind the seats powers a propeller to push the craft forward. Unlike an airboat, the device the men were riding was equipped with a parachute.

"Our understanding is that once one of these has enough speed, the pilot can manipulate the parachute so that it takes flight," Maynard said. "We were told that these guys were not trying to fly but were riding this thing around a big open field like a go-kart."

Once the parachute became entangled in power lines, the machine kept moving, dragging the men — who were in their seatbelts — along the ground, over a barbed wire fence and across the two-lane paved highway.

"They both got some serious road rash and other injuries but are expected to recover," Maynard said.

Deputies said the incident was witnessed by several relatives and friends of the two crash victims.

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