New Mexico State Police: Preliminary investigation indicates propeller plane had fully landed before winds pushed it off the runway
SHIPROCK — A pilot was injured before noon Thursday in a propeller plane crash at the Shiprock Airstrip.
Ryan Arroyo, 33, a passenger in the plane, said strong winds overturned the aircraft during landing. The pilot, Joe Tumminaro, was transported by helicopter to San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington, according to Arroyo.
Hospital spokeswoman Laura Werbner said Thursday evening that Tumminaro was in serious condition.
Arroyo did not suffer any apparent injuries.
Arroyo said the two men, both from Durango, Colo., departed from Durango at about 10:30 a.m. on a sightseeing trip.
The crash was reported to the Shiprock District Telecommunications Center at 11:37 a.m., according to a Navajo Police Department press release.
“It was a normal landing, but the wind caught (the plane),” Arroyo said.
Navajo police said in the release that Tumminaro was practicing a "touch and go" landing procedure on approach when a gust of wind flipped the aircraft onto the paved airstrip.
Tumminaro complained of chest pain and was treated at the scene by Navajo Nation Emergency Medical Services before being transported to San Juan Regional Medical Center, according to the release. Arroyo did not report injuries but was also transported to the Farmington hospital, the release states.
In the press release, Navajo police describe the plane as a single-engine Cessna. The wrecked aircraft was missing a wheel and both doors on Thursday afternoon. It came to rest in a grassy median between runways.
Neither alcohol nor drugs are suspected as factors in the crash, according to the police press release.
Navajo police said in the press release that Arroyo is from El Cajon, Calif., and Tumminaro is a 67-year-old resident of Gunnison, Colo.
Federal Aviation Administration records indicate Tumminaro is a certified airman and a resident of Durango. In January 2015, Tumminaro obtained an airline transport pilot license, the highest level of aircraft pilot license, records state.
Wind on Thursday at Four Corners Regional Airport in Farmington was recorded at speeds of 20 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service.
New Mexico State Police Sgt. Chad Pierce said his agency planned to contact officials with the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board to see if the agencies will investigate the incident.
The Shiprock Airstrip was closed Thursday due to the crash, according to a press release from the Navajo Department of Transportation. Shiprock Airstrip is one of six airports on the reservation and is listed in the FAA's facility directory. It is 4,840 feet long and 75 feet wide, according to Daily Times archives.
The Navajo DOT has previously proposed upgrades to the aging airport, including improvements to the runway's markings and pavement, according to archives. The pavement condition was listed in a 2014 report as fair to poor with surface cracks found on a majority of the runway, archives state.
Navajo DOT spokesman Carl Slater said Thursday's crash was the first to occur in several years at the airstrip.
Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.