Plane crash kills Montana man

Bad weather likely caused accident 3 miles from Park City

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 3 2006 12:00 a.m. MST

A plane lies in oak brush Monday northwest of the Jordanelle Reservoir. The aircraft may have crashed an hour or two before the wreckage was spotted.

Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News

PARK CITY — A Montana man who regularly commuted to Spanish Fork in his private plane was killed Monday afternoon when his aircraft went down, apparently in bad weather, about three miles east of here.

Thomas M. Harmon, 50, of Billings, was identified as the victim late Monday.

Summit County dispatchers received a call about 1 p.m. that a plane was flying about 50 feet above U.S. 40, but sheriff's deputies found no evidence of a crash, and nothing else was reported until roughly 3:30 p.m. That's when a 22-year-old man called to say he had spotted a downed aircraft while he was stopped on the side of U.S. 40, searching for moose with a scope.

"It's very difficult to see here from the road," Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds told the media near the crash site. "It's a strong possibility that had this individual not been spotting for wildlife that the plane may not have been found for days."

The plane crashed on the rolling hills just a few hundred yards east of U.S. 40 at milepost 6, six miles south of I-80 and about 12 miles north of Heber City.

When rescuers arrived, they noticed a good amount of falling snow had accumulated atop the aircraft, Edmunds said.

"We think it's possible the aircraft was here about an hour or two hours before it was located," the sheriff confirmed.

About two hours after the plane was spotted, reporters were not allowed access to the crash site because the pilot's body was still inside the plane. The state medical examiner had been summoned and was expected to perform an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

"The wings are broken, and there are various parts of the aircraft that have been ripped from the main structure, the fuselage," Edmunds said.

"It's a pretty dramatic accident, like all aircraft accidents typically are."

Edmunds said he had no way of knowing whether Harmon was killed instantly or may have died later from his injuries and exposure to the elements. There was not an explosion, Edmunds said, describing the crash as an "impact-type accident."

It did appear the conditions may have had something to do with the accident.

"The weather was horrible about 1 o'clock," the sheriff said. "It deteriorated most of the day. A lot of snow, a lot of wind and obviously very cold temperatures."

Edmunds said Harmon owned the aircraft and was traveling alone. He said Harmon has apparently commuted from his home in Billings to a work site in Spanish Fork for quite some time but did not know exactly where the man worked.

It was not immediately known whether the pilot had sent out a distress call before he crashed. The exact type and size of the aircraft also were not immediately known Monday.


E-mail: zman@desnews.com

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