Authorities say it could take some time to repair the power transmission line damage left in the aftermath of the crash of a crop dusting plane north of Scottsbluff Tuesday morning.
Nebraska Public Power District officials say repair crews from York, North Platte and Ogallala are in the area today for reconstruction work on the 230-kilovolt transmission line damaged as a result of the crash, and the pubic is asked to stay clear of the work area.
Scotts Bluff County Sheriff Mark Overman tells KNEB News three county roads in the area are closed to local traffic only, and he understands it could take upwards of a month for completion of repairs. “These are great, big power structures. It’s not a power pole, it’s like double power poles and a bunch of them got snapped off and damaged,” said Overman. “NPPD told me this morning they’ve got 10 of those that going to have to be replaced.”
Travel is restricted on County Roads 19 and 20 between County Road F to G, as well as County Road 22 from Lake Minatare Road to County Road G.
Overman also said the National Transportation Safety Board will not be sending investigators to the scene.
He says NTSB officials were satisfied with the details provided by the local investigation, which included extensive interviews with the pilot and witnesses, as well as pictures and drone footage of the crash scene.
Overman also released additional details from the incident, saying the bi-plane crop duster owned by Western Cooperative of Alliance NE and piloted by Michael Uhlken, age 65, of rural Scottsbluff, impacted power lines just west of Highway 71 approximately 2.3 miles north of the Scottsbluff city limits at Highway 71 and W. 42nd Street. This impact cut several major power transmission lines, and caused one line to fall so it was suspended a few feet above the roadway. The southbound semi-truck, driven by Jerry Landin, age 54 of LaSalle, Colorado, arrived in the area shortly after the aircraft incident.
Mr. Landin stated that he did not see the aircraft accident and did not see the cable hanging low across the roadway. He stated that his windshield “exploded” and he was fortunate that he was wearing glasses at the time. He had no idea what happened but immediately began trying to stop the truck. The semi struck the cable which moved upwards from the bumper area, striking and shattering the windshield, then going over the roof of the tractor where it impacted the top of the trailer. From point of impact to stopping point the truck traveled approximately 800 feet south before stopping.
A witness that lived nearby responded to the aircraft accident scene in a cornfield north of his house. He found Mr. Uhlken sitting on top of the cockpit outside the plane, completely wet from liquids leaking from the aircraft, which was completely destroyed and upside down. Valley Ambulance transported Mr. Uhlken to Regional West Medical Center, where he was treated for non-life threatening injuries and released later in the afternoon.
Agencies involved included the Scotts Bluff County Sheriff’s Office, officers from the Gering and Mitchell Police Departments, National Park Service and Nebraska Game and Parks. Emergency crews responding came from the Scottsbluff Rural Fire Department, City of Scottsbluff Fire Department Hazardous Materials Response Team, Western Nebraska Regional Airport Fire Department and Valley Ambulance.