ODESSA, Wash – In the first moments after a Navy EA-6B Prowler crashed in rural Lincoln County Monday, Stan Dammel was one of the first people to see the wreckage from the air.
The General Aviation Pilot and manager of the Odessa Regional Airport recalled hearing about the crash on his air traffic scanner.
"[They said] there was a plane down, they were saying it's about a 45,000 pound airplane. I was thinking, ‘My goodness, that's got to be bigger than just our general aviation stuff we have here,'" Dammel said. "My first concern was we have crop dusters from the airport over here and I was hoping it wasn't one of them."
Dammel went outside to check, but saw all of their planes on the ground. So he took his own up in the air and flew over the site of the crash. He told KHQ he saw smoke still coming from the wreckage, a crater roughly 15 feet deep where the plane hit, and small pieces of debris scattered for half a mile.
On a map of the military training routes, Dammel pointed out the location of the crash, adding that it was along the line of what's called a ‘visual route,' where pilots use their sight to aid in navigation, as opposed to ‘instrument routes' where they rely solely on the technology in the cockpit.
The EA-6B Prowler is designed to seat four people, but Monday there were three aboard. While that doesn't make it any better for the three families who are now grieving the loss of their fourth ones, he's thankful there's not a fourth family joined in their pain.
"You just feel bad for the families and friends of those people," he said. "Here they were trying to do something to practice and learn and be better at defending our country, and they're not here."
There is still no word on what caused Monday's crash.