Crop duster goes down near family home
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
An Escambia County man was killed early Tuesday (June 16) when his crop duster plane crashed in a remote area northwest of Atmore.
Authorities have not identified the victim, but family members said the plane, which went down near a gravel-pit lake off Gideons Lake Road, was piloted by Eddie Gideons.
Escambia County Sheriff Health Jackson said the crash happened around 7:30 a.m. on land owned by the victim, about two miles off Atmosphere Road which is off Jack Springs Road.
“This morning, about 7:30, Escambia County Sheriff’s Office dispatchers received a call that a single-engine plane had gone down,” the sheriff said. “We dispatched first responders to the site, and at about 8:10 they discovered the crash in a gravel lake area, on land, in some bushes. The pilot was located; he was deceased.”
A steady stream of family members and friends arrived during the morning at the gate that offers access to the crash site. Only family members and close family friends were allowed beyond the gate.
Jackson said the victim was still inside the single-engine, one-seat aircraft, which was in such a remote area that access was hard to gain. Emergency personnel were working to clear a path to expedite the investigation and to allow for removal of the craft.
“The plane was not in the water, it was on land,” he said. “Because of where it is, it’s difficult to get to, and there are a lot of grown-up areas around it. We’re trying to clear out a good path so we can get in there to it, and so they can get the plane out (when the investigation has been completed).”
Reports from several sources were that the victim was on the phone with a family member when the plane went down.
“We’re not confirming any of that right now,” the sheriff said. “That’s not something we’ve really dove into yet. There were three main things we needed to do: The main thing was to make sure we got in there to check for anybody that might be a survivor; second, we wanted to preserve the integrity of the scene, and third, we wanted to give the family time to pull themselves together.”
He said ECSO investigators would conduct the death investigation, “as we do with every death in Escambia County,” while Federal Aviation Administration investigators would investigate the crash itself, whether it was caused by a malfunction or if some other factor was involved.
Jackson said he expected both investigations to be “a smooth process.”
Joe Hayles, a friend of the victim and a retired pilot, hypothesized that the aircraft must have stalled. He said (the victim) “was a good enough pilot that he would be able to land that plane in a cornfield or anywhere else.”
Jackson said the death of the victim represented a great loss to the entire community.
“This is a tragic event, not something you would wish on anyone,” he said. “The subject was a very good man in our community. Escambia County lost a good man today.”