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Lack of fuel may have caused Wood County plane crash, but saved man's life

POSTED: Thursday, November 19, 2009 - 8:43pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - 12:06pm

Michael Anthony Thern recovers at a Tyler hospital

MINEOLA - A pilot survived the crash of his small plane and managed to make a phone call for help Thursday, the Texas Department of Public Safety said.

The DPS identified the pilot as Michael Anthony Thern, 36, of Plano.

DPS spokesman Tom Vinger said the single-engine plane evidently clipped some treetops and crashed about 4:45 a.m. Thursday a half-mile north of Wood County Airport, between Mineola and Quitman.

East Texas Medical Center spokesperson Rebecca Berkley said Thern was in the ICU but listed in fair condition. Thern was hospitalized with two possible fractured ankles and lacerations, but the injuries do not appear to be life threatening.

A first responder on the scene told our crews Thern was still inside the aircraft when they arrived. According to the man, whom did not want to be identified, the pilot called 911 from the plane and rescue workers used ATV's and four-wheelers to reach him through the thick woods. The man said it's quite possible Thern was knocked unconscious for sometime before regaining consciousness.

It's unclear when and where the plane took off - but investigators said he was trying to reach the Wood County Airport. They said it appears that Thern's plane either ran out of gas or experienced engine failure 500 yards short of the runway.

"There was no wind and the weather was very nice," said a first-responder. "There was not a cloud in the sky."

Officials said the very thing that caused the crash - might've saved Thern's life. The plane wasn't full of fuel, so the aircraft didn't burst into flames.

They say the the entire crash probably lasted 10 seconds.

The Federal Aviation Administration will investigate.

According to FAA records, Thern received his pilot's certificate in 2002.

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