Farmer recalls Thunderbolt II crash, pilot's concern
By MARCUS KLOECKNER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 4, 2011
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The pilot who ejected from an A-10 Thunderbolt II that crashed near the town of Laufeld remained hospitalized Monday but is in good condition.
A German farmer who was among the first people at the crash scene Friday, said the first thing the pilot, identified as Lt. Col. Scott Hurrelbrink, said when they found him was “Where did the plane crash?”
“The pilot was worried that the plane could have crashed in the town,” said Werner Ambrosius, whose field was damaged. “But we could assure him that it just went down on a field.”
Ambrosius, who is also a firefighter, said he heard the town’s sirens go off when the plane crashed and ran to the fire station. Two firetrucks raced to the field.
“The fire was burning when we arrived,” Ambrosius said, adding that “we arrived quickly; it was a matter of minutes.”
Sebastian Müller, also a local farmer, said he was outside Friday when he heard an “unbelievable loud bang.”
“We were lucky, very lucky,” he said. “Our house is just about 50 meters from the crash site. ... ” When Müller ran to the site, he saw flames and pieces of the plane scattered around the field.
Müller said that since the crash, he has had to keep his cows in a pen because of the wreckage. Ordinarily, he allows the cows to graze in the field.
The aircraft was on a routine training mission and about to return to the base when the incident happened. It was carrying several rounds of training ammunition.
A Spangdahlem explosive ordnance disposal team secured the crash site and the 52nd Medical Group Bioenvironmental Engineer Flight tested the scene for possible contamination and “all findings are within normal limits,” according to the press release.
Laufeld Mayor Karl-Josef Junk, who is also a lieutenant colonel in the German army, said the townspeople he talked to were concerned about the pilot and were glad to hear he survived.
“While this is a very unfortunate incident, we all are extremely grateful that Lieutenant Colonel Hurrelbrink is OK and the aircraft impacted in a field away from Laufeld ...,” the 52nd Fighter Wing commander, Col. Christopher P. Weggeman, said in the press release.
According to news reports, the crash investigation can take up to 30-60 days. According to the Air Force, any determination on the airworthiness of the fleet would follow the outcome of the safety review.
Spangdahlem Air Base is asking eyewitnesses to the crash or anyone having photos of the incident to call 06565-61-5245, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.