By Mike Dever - email
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Benjamin Price, the 20-year-old pilot and owner of a small plane that made an emergency landing on the Watterson Expressway late Thursday, planned to take in the sights of Louisville with three friends, then attend Saturday's UK game. Although he didn't have enough fuel to make it to the airport, he did have enough skill to bring his plane to a safe landing on one of the city's busiest interstates.
Price landed the single-engine Piper PA-28 in the westbound lanes of the Watterson just past the Taylorsville Road exit shortly after 11 o'clock Thursday night as stunned drivers looked on. The plane came to rest on the grassy shoulder of the Interstate.
Price is from Louisville, and attends Auburn University. He planned to show his passengers and fellow students - a man and two women - around his hometown before taking in the a football game.
"They were on their way up from Auburn and were planning on going to the Kentucky-Auburn game tomorrow," said Price's mother, Leigh Price.
Leigh says her son has been a pilot for two years and has studied aviation at Auburn. She says everyone escaped with only minor injuries.
"He has some lumbar compression fractures and a broken tooth and some of the girls had broken noses, but as far as we know that's it," Leigh said.
Chris Barber says he saw the plane - which was running out of fuel - go down.
"It's amazing because the way he was banked around, I thought he was going to nose right in, but he was able to get straight down and halfway leveled off when he touched down," Barber said. "The amazing thing is that he didn't hit any cars and didn't catch any of the lamp posts."
Barber says he was one of the first people to talk to Price after he landed.
"I asked him what happened, what was the cause of the crash and he said he was running low on fuel and he was trying to get to Standiford Field and they diverted him to Bowman Field," Barber said. "And he [Price] said he didn't think he had enough fuel, and he ran out and his plane just started dropping from that point and he couldn't make it to Bowman Field."
Whitney Weber saw the plane land and was amazed no one was hurt.
"You're like, that's no way that can be a plane, this is not really happening," Weber recalled. "And it happened in slow motion. The next thing, it comes right down - misses all traffic - and lands. And there's no fire or anything. And there's a plane right on the expressway, and no one's hurt and everybody walks away."
Mom is thankful her son was skilled enough to make the difficult landing.
"It's unfortunate, but I think he did a great job of getting them down safely," Leigh said. I'm so proud of him for doing that."
Price was released from University Hospital early Friday.
FAA officials are investigating the crash.