A man who was injured as his ultralight aircraft crashed Tuesday in a remote field south of Cortez was assisted by a British tourist who witnessed the accident while driving.
“I saw him flying northbound real low, and I thought, ‘Surely he is not going to try and land in that rough area,’” said Moss Hills, who was on a driving tour of the Southwest with his wife, Tracy. “Then we saw the plane flip over and knew it could be trouble.”
Hills made a U-turn on U.S. Highway 491 and drove his passenger vehicle up a muddy dirt track east toward the crash site at the base of the Mesa Verde escarpment. When it became too rough, he parked and ran the rest of the way.
“What I saw was the pilot tangled in the wreckage. He was conscious but disoriented. His face was bleeding. He had a cut above his eye, and it looked like his nose was broken,” Hills said.
A wheel had sheared off the plane after it apparently flipped and nosedived into the ground. Debris was scattered, and the pilot’s cellphone was smashed.
Hills called 911 on his cellphone and reported the general location of the crash but was unsure of exactly where he was. After he found a GPS in the cockpit, Hills called 911 again, and the pilot read the coordinates to the dispatcher.
Concerned about a fire, Hills said he disconnected the battery and shut off the aircraft’s fuel line. He and the pilot, who was not identified, walked about one-eighth mile to the highway.
“He seemed glad to see me,” Hills said.
A Southwest Health System ambulance crew arrived and attended to the pilot’s injuries. He was transported to Southwest Memorial Hospital.
Cortez Fire Protection District rescue personnel responded to the incident as well. They said the plane crashed in the jurisdiction of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe, and they had been contacted.