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By DARREN SIMON

January 23, 2001|Staff Writer

HOLTVILLE — A pilot and a passenger in a single-engine crop-dusting plane were injured Thursday when the plane clipped a wire and crashed into a field west of here.

The accident occurred about 3:30 p.m. in a carrot field near McCabe and Meloland roads.

Imperial County fire Capt. Lon Hettinger said the pilot, Randal Stevens, was performing a maneuver under a wire when the tail of the plane struck the line and the impact tore off surfaces that control the plane.

"From that point it was just a controlled crash," Hettinger said, adding, "The pilot did manage to get it onto the ground and it stayed wheel-side down."

The passenger was identified by county fire officials as James McConnell, who was treated at El Centro Regional Medical Center and then transferred to another hospital.

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El Centro hospital officials declined to say to what hospital he was transferred.

Information on the extent of his injuries was unavailable this morning, as was information on the home towns of the two men involved in the crash. Fire crews at the scene said the passenger reported having back and neck pains.

Stevens also was taken to El Centro Regional, where he was treated and released.

Hettinger said he is unsure why there were two people in the plane, which was built as a "single-seat restricted aircraft."

The plane belongs to Stoker Co. of Imperial, and company officials declined to comment on the crash.

Hettinger added there were reports from firefighters who responded that the passenger was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the plane.

Hettinger said the plane was carrying chemicals and fire crews initially thought it was a hazardous materials situation. They later determined a small amount of chemicals had leaked from the plane and there was little danger.

Hettinger said the location of the crash reduced any danger from chemicals.

"He (the pilot) couldn't have put it any better in the middle of that field," Hettinger said.

Hettinger said it is a common practice for crop dusters to fly under utility lines. David Ross of Stoker, while not commenting on the crash, agreed.

Hettinger said the wire cut was likely a phone line. Imperial Irrigation District spokeswoman Sue Giller confirmed the plane did not strike a power line.

She did say the line that was clipped swung into a power line, which cut power temporarily to four IID customers.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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