'He's a darn good pilot': Family of Hillsboro plane crash victim shares story

The conditions of the pilot and passenger who survived a plane crash into an orchard outside Hillsboro are improving,...

Posted: Apr 30, 2018 4:01 PM
Updated: Apr 30, 2018 4:01 PM

The conditions of the pilot and passenger who survived a plane crash into an orchard outside Hillsboro are improving, according to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center.

A nursing supervisor told FOX 12 that 73-year-old Gary Hagstrom has been downgraded from "critical condition" to "serious condition." The other man who survived, 88-year-old Gennaro Avolio, is now in "fair condition."

Witnesses said the engine wasn't running and the plane hit a tree before going down.

The two men were pulled by firefighters from the YAK 52 Thursday afternoon. The Washington County Sheriff said the plane was having engine trouble before it crashed.

Sam Peck first heard of his stepfather's crash when one of Hagstrom's friends called him, concerned the plane he was flying might have gone down. Then Peck got a call from the hospital – confirming the devastating news.

"I was shaken up," Peck said. "It was so scary."

Since then, it's been an emotional roller-coaster for the family. They now feel grateful it seems the worst is behind them, and Hagstrom should make a full recovery.

"(The doctors) said he's very lucky to be alive and his guardian angels are working overtime," Peck said.

Peck said Hagstrom is on a ventilator, and although the family hasn't yet been able to speak him, his stepfather seems to be in good spirits. Still, the road to recovery will be a long one.

"He has two cracked vertebrae -- up in the chest area -- a couple cracked ribs, broken sternum, bump on the head from hitting the canopy a couple times, and a broken femur ball socket," Peck said.

Peck said Hagstrom was flying the World War II era Yak 52 as a favor for its owner. The plane belongs to the Classic Aircraft Aviation Museum in Hillsboro.

Hagstrom and Avolio planned to fly it from Creswell to Scappoose, until they had engine trouble, and rerouted – hoping to get to the Hillsboro Airport.

"He was trying to make that field (beyond the orchard), but the gravity got the better of him," Peck said. "It was because of his flight hours that he was just able to guide it in as best as he could."

And Hagstrom is no novice pilot.

Peck estimates his stepfather has about 50 years experience flying: he was a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War and then flew many years for American Airlines.

"I know he's a darn good pilot," Peck said, adding that his stepfather's skill likely saved both men's lives.

And although Hagstrom had never flown the Yak 52, Peck said he was familiar with the Russian plane, and even has a similar one sitting in his hanger.

The CJ-6 now waiting for him at home.

"He's stubborn, so he'll try to get back in the air as soon as he can," Peck said.

Peck said he believes his stepfather would have completed a full safety check before takeoff.

The FAA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are still investigation the cause of the crash.

Huntsville
Scattered Clouds
81° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 85°
Florence
Broken Clouds
83° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 88°
Fayetteville
Broken Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 82°
Decatur
Broken Clouds
78° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: °
Scottsboro
Scattered Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 89°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 54768

Reported Deaths: 1096
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson6746170
Mobile4904140
Montgomery4547112
Tuscaloosa269053
Madison22689
Marshall198011
Shelby169125
Lee159637
Morgan13385
Baldwin127711
Walker107532
Elmore106721
Etowah101114
Dallas10029
DeKalb9677
Franklin93816
Autauga69815
Russell6860
Unassigned67928
Chambers67730
Butler65229
Limestone6393
Tallapoosa63069
Cullman6156
Houston6077
Lauderdale5776
St. Clair5443
Calhoun5155
Colbert5096
Escambia4888
Lowndes48422
Pike4795
Jackson4352
Coffee4284
Covington41612
Talladega4017
Barbour3992
Dale3951
Bullock37810
Hale35423
Marengo35411
Chilton3312
Blount3201
Clarke3176
Wilcox3038
Winston2995
Sumter29213
Marion29014
Pickens2746
Randolph2639
Monroe2603
Perry2502
Conecuh2318
Bibb2241
Macon2199
Choctaw21712
Greene1989
Henry1553
Washington1488
Lawrence1360
Crenshaw1323
Cherokee1247
Geneva980
Lamar891
Clay852
Fayette851
Coosa661
Cleburne451
Out of AL00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 61960

Reported Deaths: 741
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby13594224
Davidson13309143
Rutherford360239
Hamilton336438
Sumner194556
Williamson176316
Knox16209
Trousdale15105
Out of TN141610
Wilson118717
Putnam10197
Bradley9724
Robertson94813
Sevier9123
Unassigned8902
Montgomery7787
Tipton6987
Lake6960
Bledsoe6291
Bedford6249
Macon6037
Hamblen4744
Maury4623
Hardeman4184
Fayette3705
Madison3632
Rhea3430
Blount3393
Loudon3282
Dyer2923
McMinn28419
Cheatham2753
Dickson2750
Washington2620
Lawrence2396
Cumberland2214
Sullivan2214
Anderson2002
Jefferson1871
Lauderdale1824
Gibson1811
Smith1602
Monroe1556
Greene1512
Coffee1430
Cocke1380
Hardin1287
Warren1270
Obion1243
Haywood1213
Marshall1182
Franklin1163
Wayne1160
McNairy1071
Carter1052
Giles1051
Hickman1050
Marion954
Hawkins912
Lincoln870
White863
DeKalb850
Roane850
Henderson740
Weakley741
Overton731
Campbell701
Chester690
Claiborne680
Grundy652
Unicoi580
Grainger560
Polk550
Crockett543
Henry530
Carroll521
Cannon500
Sequatchie490
Humphreys472
Jackson470
Johnson460
Meigs380
Perry380
Morgan321
Decatur290
Scott280
Fentress270
Stewart260
Union240
Moore210
Clay200
Houston200
Benton151
Hancock120
Lewis110
Van Buren90
Pickett70

 

 

Community Events