Plane crashes into Lake Sammamish; pilot unhurt

June 24, 2009

By J.B. Wogan

UPDATED — 12:36 p.m. June 24, 2009

Paul Weston pointed to a purple dot, about the size of dime, on the crook of his right arm — the only sign on his entire body that he had just crashed a plane into Lake Sammamish.

“I’m just thanking the lord that everything turned out fine,” Weston said.

The 83-year-old Redmond resident was testing out a seaplane he designed when he came in at angle, dipping the left wing into the water, and crashed at 10:45 a.m. today. The flight lasted about five minutes, starting with an eastward takeoff that ended as Weston circled back around and tried to land. The plane hit the water about 300 yards from Vasa Park in Bellevue.

Paul Weston, of Redmond, an experimental float plane pilot, talks on his phone at a Vasa Park boat launch ramp after a safe but ungraceful landing June 24 in waters off the park on Lake Sammamish.  By Greg Farrar

Paul Weston, of Redmond, an experimental float plane pilot, talks on his phone at a Vasa Park boat launch ramp after a safe but ungraceful landing June 24 in waters off the park on Lake Sammamish. By Greg Farrar

“The wing hooked into the water and spun out. That was it,” Weston said.

Greg Pearce said he and his family saw the crash while enjoying the sunny day at Vasa Park.

“It looked probably a lot worse than it was,” Pearce said. “I’m sure it wasn’t planned that way.”

Pearce’s son Ryan said he had only seen crashes like that on television.

John Batterman, a member of Weston’s safety crew, said the crash was not as bad as it could have been.

“It seemed a little unreal when it was happening. Immediately we noticed that the plane was upright, and he popped the hatch right after so we knew he was okay,” Batterman said. “On a scale of one to 10, 10 being the worst, this would probably be a two. We were very fortunate.”

Batterman said the safety precautions for the test flight were to have radio communication, a boat on standby, and for Batterman to be ready to dive if necessary.

A private towing crew towed the plane back to the park shore. One vertical fin showed a crack in the fiberglass and the joints where the wings meet the body were loose in some spots. Weston said he didn’t know when he would fly it again.

Weston, who had a pilot’s license and had flown training planes, designed the seaplane after years of building model airplanes. He said he had tested the plane out the week before on Lake Sammamish.

“The landing was better, obviously,” he said.

Reporter J.B. Wogan can be reached at 392-6434, ext. 247, or jbwogan@isspress.com. Intern Lauren Mclaughlin contributed to this story.

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