Thursday, December 27, 2012

Car Smashes into Planes After Driver Falls Asleep - Valdosta Regional Airport (KVLD), Georgia

Story, photos and reaction/comments:

VALDOSTA — Three small planes were grounded indefinitely late Monday night at the Valdosta Regional Airport, after a drowsy driver reportedly flew through a fence, sped through two hangars and clipped the wings of parked aircraft.

 A 2010 Honda Accord driven by 24-year old Brandon Cowart slammed into a ditch along Madison Highway at around 11:46 p.m. Monday, according to Airport Manager Jim Galloway, and the impact may have resulted in the bump on the driver's head and his missing tooth. The driver told airport authorities that he remembered nothing after the initial impact, which may help to explain why there is a lack of skid marks over the car's 1,100 foot trip into the airport, Galloway said.

The car bounded over the ditch, ripped through a fence and shrubbery, steam-rolled a parking block, threaded at least two oak trees and skirted around a power junction and light post before reaching the first hangar, said Galloway. The runaway car then plowed through the side wall of a hangar, according to reports.

The car inflicted significant damage on three aircraft inside of the hangar, though it only struck two planes directly, reports from the Valdosta Police Department stated. The car continued through the wall of a neighboring hangar, coming to rest in an office full of paint cans inside the second building.

“He's lucky to be alive, considering how bad the accident was,” said Galloway. “Pieces of his car could be found all along the path from the roadway into the hangars. There are so many things that he could have hit. And at the  speed he had to be traveling, any impact could have been fatal.”

Affected aircraft are reportedly owned by Valdosta Flying Services, Antofia Flying Services and Ferrell Scruggs, Co. The airport leases the hangars to aviation companies, according to Galloway, and the space inside the buildings are rented to customers of the contractors.

“It's a hassle for us to repair all of the damage,” said Galloway. “And I know it has to be a hassle for the owners. They have to work with their insurers to assess the total damages and the feasibility of their repair. But again, this incident could have been a lot worse. ”

 Cowart told VPD officers that he had dowsed off while traveling south on Madison Highway, reports stated. He has been charged with failure to maintain lane, according to police.

 Valdosta, Ga. -- December 27, 2012 --  We all need sleep. But not behind the wheel. Brandon Cowart learned the hard way when he dozed off and drove his Honda Civic through this fence and straight into three airplanes at the Valdosta Regional Airport. It happened around midnight on Sunday. 

Cowart was able to walk away from the accident with a bump on the head and a missing tooth. 

Valdosta Regional Airport Manager Jim Galloway said "I think he was extremely lucky. There were so many obstacles or things in his way that if he had moved a few feet one way or the other I think it would have been a very high likelihood that he would have perished in the accident." 

One of the obstacles that he was just feet away from hitting was a 250 gallon propane tank. The Valdosta Police Department did cite him for Failure to Maintain Lane. It's safe to say it was a big failure.

Lieutenant Aaron Kirk of the Valdosta Police Department said "that's one of the typical charges that are used. And no we do not have any indication that drugs or alcohol were involved in this accident."

There's no tally yet as to the value of the damage done but the planes together cost more than $300,000 dollars. According to the Valdosta Police Department, the driver drove roughly 1,100 feet before making a complete stop.

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