TOLUCA — State and possibly federal officials are investigating a recent incident in which a self-described area "hobby farmer" claims that a spray plane flew closely over him and released chemicals or other material while he was harvesting a small field of oats with an antique combine.
Brad Kuchan, 54, a retired teacher from Minonk, said he was operating a 1963 combine with no cab about 2:20 p.m. July 15 in a 4 1/2-acre field at the edge of Toluca when the yellow spray plane approached from behind and discharged something that left residue.
A friend of Kuchan, retired University of Illinois employee Tom Nations of Tuscola, was standing nearby to watch the operation of the equipment. He estimated the plane was about 30 feet off the ground when it came over the site and "buzzed us," he said.
"I live in a rural area, so (spray planes) are prevalent this time of year," Nations said Friday. "But when they're not (doing normal) spraying, you don't expect them to be just 30 feet off the ground."
Both Nations and Kuchan said there were no neighboring crop fields that might have led to overlapping spray patterns, and that the plane simply flew out of sight after making the one unexpected pass overhead. Both said there was no apparent explanation for the plane being there at that time.
"He just went back to the airport, or wherever he was going," Nations said.
The incident came into public light partly through Kuchan placing a large ad in weekly papers in Lacon and Toluca seeking information from potential witnesses.
When contacted by the Journal Star, Kuchan said he had visited a hospital emergency room after the incident. He said he still was awaiting chemical test results on the substance left on his skin but had suffered no ill health effects at this point.
Nations said separately he had not suffered any effects and had not sought medical attention.
Kuchan said the pilot contacted him in person July 16 and provided an out-of-state mailing address, cellphone number and affiliation with an area agricultural business. Kuchan would not disclose those but said he had provided them in complaints he made to the Federal Aviation Administration and Illinois Department of Agriculture.
A spokesperson at the FAA's Flight Services District Office in Springfield said Friday the agency provides no information about ongoing investigations. Department of Agriculture spokesman Jeff Squibb confirmed that there is one at that agency.
"A complaint was received," Squibb said, "and has been assigned to an investigator."