Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Jacksonville, Florida: Trailer loses plane on I-10 near Chaffee; Owner didn't realize plane detached from tow until he got to Baker County

Tom  Zollinger paid $3,500 for the plane. He's waited his entire life to own one, and said he can't give up on his dream now. 

"I cashed in what I could cash in. I didn't tell my wife, and now I'm divorced." - Tom Zollinger  


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -  A plane on the side of the road made for an unusual site for commuters Wednesday morning on the Westside.

A small bi-plane was left on the side of the road after it detached from the trailer that was towing it overnight, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The plane was located by troopers on the side of I-10 westbound near Chaffee Road Wednesday morning.

Tom Zollinger, the owner, said he didn't notice the plane had detached from the trailer until he got all the way to Baker County. Zollinger said he bought the plane as a retirement gift to himself.

"I don't know how it wound up in the shoulder," he said. "It must be smarter than me."

Zollinger's trying to maintain his sense of humor even though he's extremely disappointed. He drove from Kentucky to Satellite Beach to pick up the miniature aircraft he paid $3,500 for. He also bought the trailer.

"He was tying it down, he had a company tying it down, and everything looked like it was going to be OK for me," Zollinger said.

Zollinger said when he realized the plane had detached, he was most worried about someone getting hurt or killed because of it.

Troopers waited for hours for Zollinger to retrieve the plane. Lanes were not blocked during the incident.

"It could have been a lot worse than it was," FHP Sgt. Dylan Bryan said.

He said it happens far too often, drivers losing their load or their trailer altogether. Zollinger could have been held responsible for an accident if someone had been hurt or killed.

"We have documented and worked traffic crashes where the load wasn't attached properly or fell off and caused a very serious death," Bryan said.

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A retired man, who is passionate about pursuing his lifelong dream of flying, lost his plane along the side of I-10 Wednesday morning. 

 Tom Zollinger is from Kentucky. He said his dream has always been to own an experimental aircraft.

He tells WTLV-TV he purchased a small plane from a man in Satellite Beach back in October. On Tuesday, he made the long trek down to Florida to retrieve his treasure.

The aircraft was securely tightened to his trailer, or so he thought.w

On his way back to Kentucky, Zollinger realized his plane was no longer on the trailer. He didn't realize the plane was missing until he got to Baker County, roughly 15 miles from where the plane unhooked. The plane and trailer ended up in the median of I-10 near Chaffee Road on Jacksonville's Westside.

"When I stopped for gas," said Zollinger. "Every time I stopped for gas, I go out and check on my straps to make sure everything is tight. There was nothing tied on."

He called the Florida Highway Patrol and said he was terrified someone ran over the small aircraft. "I told them that's what I was afraid of, that somebody got killed or hurt."

FHP said a driver called them early Wednesday morning and notified them where the plane was.

Zollinger said it's amazing it ended up on in the median. "It must be smarter than me," he said.

Zollinger paid $3,500 for the plane. He's waited his entire life to own one, and said he can't give up on his dream now.

"I cashed in what I could cash in. I didn't tell my wife, and now I'm divorced."

Traffic was unaffected as the plane was lost, then reunited with its owner.

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