BETHEL ACRES — A state trooper piloting an aircraft during a Pottawatomie County manhunt was seriously injured Friday night when the Oklahoma Highway Patrol plane crashed in a pasture and caught fire near SH 9 and Bethel Road.
The trooper, whose name wasn't released, was taken to OU Medical Center, where his updated condition was awaited late Friday night.
A Pottawatomie County sheriff's deputy who was among those who pulled the trooper from the burning wreckage was being checked at St. Anthony Shawnee Hospital as a precaution Friday night after inhaling smoke during that rescue, Undersheriff Travis Palmer reported.
The plane crash occurred as numerous law enforcement officers were in the area for a manhunt, looking for an alleged drunk driver who was injured and had fled from the scene of an injury accident, said Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Betsy Randolph.
Troopers working that crash called for assistance from the air, Randolph said, so a trooper piloting a fixed-wing OHP aircraft was flying over the area and searching from the air.
The trooper had made two passes over the area when he was pointing to a location where he saw the suspect, she said, with the plane about 80 feet from the ground.
"The windows [of the plane] were opened and he yelled and whistled," to the ground officers, she said, signaling the location of the suspect.
As ground units moved closer to that area, the plane leveled out, stalled and went down, she said.
Randolph said the plane, which obviously sustained some type of mechanical failure, caught fire.
"It was terribly scary," Randolph said.
Pottawatomie County Deputy Jason Holasek, who was among the many in that area for the manhunt, ran to the crash. The trooper was partially out of the plane, Randolph said.
"He was bloody and face down," she said, with reports from Palmer indicating Holasek pulled the trooper out of the burning wreckage while several other law enforcement officers then helped both of them escape the area.
The trooper was reportedly conscious but was in pain, Randolph said.
He was the only trooper on board the aircraft at the time of the crash, she added.
Tecumseh and Bethel Acres firefighters responded to extinguish the fire at the scene and a Medi Flight helicopter ambulance responded to transport the trooper to Oklahoma City.
As troopers and other law enforcement worked the scene late Friday night, Randolph said they weren't releasing the trooper's name as his family was being notified and taken to the hospital to meet him there.
Randolph, who said the trooper has been with OHP for many years, said she just saw him yesterday. The trooper's updated condition wasn't known at press deadlines.
Page 2 of 2 - "Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers," Randolph said.
Randolph said they were all concerned when hearing news of the crash as it was the same day years ago — July 26, 1990 — when State Trooper Joe Nicolle was killed when the helicopter he was piloting hit power lines near Tahlequah. Because of that, there were many scary moments for troopers responding to Friday night's plane crash.
Randolph said the suspect being sought in the manhunt was apprehended at the scene.
Those working the scene including Pottawatomie County sheriff's deputies, Citizen Potawatomi Nation and Absentee Shawnee police, District 23 task force, Shawnee and Tecumseh police, Bethel Acres and Tecumseh Fire Departments, as well as REACT EMS paramedics.
The National Transportation Safety Board will be notified to further investigate the plane crash, Randolph said.
Watch for updates.