Surprise landing

 It is not every day that an airplane lands on the road right in front of you. Rey Ortiz, left, made a new friend, pilot Joe Ellsworth, whose small airplane had technical difficulties causing him to land in front of Ortiz on CR 53 near Hartsel. (Photo courtesy of Rey Ortiz)

Park County residents are prepared for wind, dust, snow, fires, gravel, potholes, hail and more when they travel in the county. Few are prepared for an airplane landing unexpectedly on a gravel road. 

When Rey Ortiz, Hartsel resident and former Army aircraft mechanic, left his home Oct. 7, he did not expect that shortly thereafter he would see a small airplane land right in front of his truck, but that is exactly what happened. 

Jimmy Anderson, realtor of Twin Creek Realty, was also on the same road and was quite surprised to see an airplane land on County Road 53. 

Ortiz set out for his delivery of road base to a customer in the Hartsel area in his dump truck, when what to his wondering eyes did appear, but an airplane flying very low over the road he was traveling. 

“Driving down CR 53, I noticed a plane in the air, but it was flying really low,” said Ortiz. “I have an aviation background and recognized that something was not right. I was in shock and thinking, is that really a plane in front of me right now?” 

“I saw that the plane was slowing down, and then it landed. I immediately got out and asked the pilot if he was OK and he said, “Yeah, a little shaken up.’” 

“Oh my, he’s landing, I thought,” said Anderson, whose vehicle was right behind Ortiz’s. “The pilot got out and was pretty shaken up, as I would be too.” 

Ortiz and Anderson helped the pilot, Joe Ellsworth, who had flown from the airport in Salida, move the plane to the side of the road. 

O r t i z a n d A n d e r s o n teamed up and calmed the pilot down, gave him water, prayed with him and waited while he called the appropriate authorities, including the Salida airport officials to report the incident. 

“And then we were about to be on our way, I felt moved to pray right then and there,” said Ortiz. “I knew what he was feeling was intense, he was still shaking. Throughout the rest of the day as I was making my deliveries, I checked on him. When help arrived, they took care of him, dismantled the wings of the plane and loaded it on a trailer.” 

Ortiz continued. 

“I am a former Army aircraft mechanic and could see that the engine had lost a lot of oil as it was along the side of the aircraft, which caused his engine to cut off, so he had to glide it to land.”

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