A bright yellow stunt plane doing barrel rolls and other maneuvers at the Modesto air show crashed about 1 p.m. today, seriously injuring the pilot, witnesses and authorities said.
The plane crashed at the Modesto Airport toward the end of the runway in a field south of the intersection of Tenaya Drive and Daly Avenue. The plane crashed far from spectators.
"He just slammed right into the ground," said Michael Coughlin, 55, of Hawaii, who was watching from outside the airport. "He partially pulled himself out of the wreck and waved his hand high like he was saying 'here I am, come and get me.'"
Rescue workers pulled Rob Harrison, 66. from the wreckage, put him on a gurney and took him to a helicopter. Fire Battalion Chief Huga Patino said Harrison was in serious condition at Memorial Medical Center.
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"We were watching all these wonderful maneuvers," said Shirley Gray of Waterford, who was sitting in her pickup truck watching the show. "(The pilot) had just come out of a loop but he didn’t pull up. He just lost it. The plane just came down flat."
On impact, the plane kicked up a big plume of dirt. Fire crews and paramedics were on site right away. Firefighters used hoses to wet down the area, although there was no fire.
Harrison performs as "The Tumbling Bear." His biography on the Rob Harrison Airshows Web site says he's been flying since age 6 and had given more than 300 performances as of 2007. He lives in Claremont in Southern California. The single-seat, single-engine plane had an open cockpit. According to Harrison's Web site, the plane was a Zlin 50LX made in the Czech Republic in 1996. It had a top speed of about 250 mph.
It was the third plane to perform before hundreds who gathered for the 14th annual Modesto Airport Appreciation Day. The weather was sunny and clear with no wind at the time of the crash.
The air show continued, but there were no more aerobatic performances.
Bee staff writer Donna Birch contributed to this report.