DANBURY, Conn. -- The pilot of a single-engine plane that landed short of the runway at Danbury Municipal Airport and ended up in a pond early Thursday evening was rescued by firefighters in a rowboat, city officials said.
The pilot, who was the only person aboard, was not injured, and the plane does not appear to be damaged, according to Paul Estefan, airport administrator for the city.
The plane, identified as a 1984 single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza, was heading north to land on Runway 35 at the airport, traveling above Route 7 toward the Danbury Fair mall, Estefan said.
The splash landing occurred at 6:50 p.m. under clear skies and a bright, setting sun with winds of 8 knots, Estefan said.
"The plane landed in the pond and is floating there," Estefan said. Old-time Danbury residents might remember the pond as Fisherman's Paradise, which was stocked and people fished in it off the old Route 7, he said.
"Now it's a beaver pond," said Deputy Fire Chief Bernie Meehan. "The plane landed 20 feet from a beaver lodge."
Meehan supervised as firefighters went out in a rowboat to rescue the pilot, whom he did not identify.
"The water is 8 to 10 feet deep there," Meehan said. "He was outside the cockpit, standing on the plane, when we arrived."
The plane landed about a quarter mile short of the runway.
Meehan said the Fire Department had secured the scene, working with the airport administrators and Danbury Police Department.
"We rescued the pilot and made sure everyone was safe," he said. "The plane is not leaking, but we set up booms around it just in case. We have the regional Hazmat Team here."
He also was awaiting the arrival of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the National Transportation Safety Board.
"I don't want to speculate on what happened," Meehan said of why the plane, which is based at the Danbury Airport, landed in the pond. "The investigation is up to them."
Greg Mareno, who lives near the scene, said he heard a "nasty, choppy metal sound." Because it "didn't sound right," he went outside to investigate. He stayed outside to help direct traffic with volunteers from the Miry Brook Fire Department.
The scene of the splash landing is south of the airport, off Miry Brook Road. The pond is next to an unpaved lot run by Millton Associates that offers month-by-month parking. The lot is filled with big rigs and a giant pile of wood bigger than a house.
The only visible sign of the incident was the flashing lights of the fire trucks, dimly visible from Miry Brook Road and Route 7. The scene was calm and quiet, with officials pleased with the happy outcome.
The pilot, who owns the four-passenger plane, had left for home by 8 p.m., awaiting word from his insurance company about removing the plane from the pond.
"As pilots say, 'Any landing you walk away from is a good landing,'" Meehan said. "We are just happy that everyone is OK."
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