Plane lands, was on fire in grass in middle of highway near Centennial Airport

2 occupants sustained minor injuries; fire put out using environmentally safe foam, fire agency says


This story was updated March 13 with more information about firefighting chemicals used at the scene, the damage along the highway and aircraft incidents near Centennial Airport in previous years.

A plane landed on the grass median in the middle of the E-470 toll highway near Centennial Airport, and two occupants of the aircraft safely exited but sustained minor injuries and were transported to an area hospital, according to South Metro Fire Rescue.

"The two people on the plane exited on their own, were walking and talking with (emergency) responders," said Eric Hurst, spokesperson for South Metro Fire. "Their injuries were classified as minor and non-life threatening."

The small aircraft was on fire on the grass median the afternoon of March 8 as firefighters sprayed it with water, as shown in a video tweeted by the fire agency. No vehicles were involved in the crash, according to the fire agency.

'Forever chemicals' not used, agency says

In aircraft rescue and firefighting situations where fuel is on fire, sometimes concerns arise about substances known as "forever chemicals" that can cause environmental problems. Such concerns surround what are called PFAS, or per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

PFAS-containing foam is considered a "forever chemical," and although South Metro Fire Rescue is equipped with some, it was not used during the March 8 fire, Hurst said.

One scenario where South Metro Fire Rescue might use that foam is to suppress a burning aircraft while occupants are trapped inside or attempting to escape, Hurst said.

"Yesterday, all occupants were safe and out of danger, so SMFR chose not to use PFAS foam, which would have created an environmental clean-up issue," Hurst said on March 9. "The result was a longer-lasting fire that was extinguished using water and foam that is environmentally safe."

The kind of foam South Metro Fire Rescue used to help put the aircraft fire out is called "Class A" foam, Hurst said.

"It's designed to mix with water and better extinguish natural combustibles" like grass, wood and so on, Hurst said. "It also forms a smothering blanket effect much like the PFAS-containing foam so it cools and smothers the flames at the same time."

If PFAS-containing foam was used, the incident would be reported to the proper state and federal agencies, and the dirt would be removed by an environmental clean-up company, according to Hurst.

Minor damage along highway

The plane likely went down around 2:15 p.m., according to Hurst. The fire was under control as of a tweet just after 3 p.m. March 8 from the fire agency.

The landing, which the fire agency called a "crash" on Twitter, occurred between Peoria and Jamaica streets in Douglas County.

The northbound and southbound on-ramps from Interstate 25 to eastbound E-470 were closed due to the crash, and E-470 was closed at Peoria Street, according to a tweet from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office at 2:33 p.m. March 8.

Southbound E-470 was closed at Peoria, while northbound traffic was getting by on the shoulder, according to a tweet from the CSP E470 account, which appeared to be a Colorado State Patrol account.

The E-470 Public Highway Authority was still assessing the damage on March 9, but it appeared to be minimal at that point, according to Heather Burke, spokesperson for the highway authority.

"Our cable median barrier was damaged, which we anticipate will be fixed within the next few weeks," Burke said.

The traffic closures lifted at about 6 p.m. March 8, Burke said.

Aircraft incidents not uncommon in area

The involved plane is a Cessna P210N single-engine, six-passenger aircraft that was flying from the south toward the north and went down just south of Centennial Airport, according to another South Metro Fire tweet.

The incident appeared to be a crash, Hurst said.

"I would categorize the incident as a crash since witnesses said the plane contacted the ground and did not move," Hurst said. "A landing usually means a plane touched down and traveled a distance to slow down before stopping."

There was no information about what caused the accident, Hurst said on March 9. The Federal Aviation Administration and NTSB, or National Transportation Safety Board, were notified and will conduct an investigation, according to Hurst.

Asked whether an emergency plane landing has happened on or near E-470 before, Hurst said he knew of one incident where a small plane went down in the E-470 median near Jordan Road on Oct. 29, 1997.

"My understanding is the plane had minor damage (and) no injuries or deaths occurred," Hurst said.

At least several aircraft incidents or accidents in the Centennial Airport area have made local headlines in recent years. The airport has said the way planes land or depart is generally overseen by the Federal Aviation Administration, and that whether a plane lands safely depends largely on the pilot.

For more details on aircraft incidents in recent years, see our previous story.

Centennial Airport, Douglas County, E-470, plane crash, traffic, Peoria


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