Thursday, July 07, 2011

Mike Casabonne rescues Air Force Pilot, puts out brush fire, returns to ranch

The crash of an Air Force QF-4 Phantom plane started a brush fire and set off a search for the pilot Wednesday morning near the small Eddy County community of Hope. The plane, from Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo, crashed around 10:30 a.m. on Bureau of Land Management land on a ranch 6 miles south of Hope. The town is in far northwest Eddy County, about 20 miles west of Artesia. According to Artesia Fire Marshal James Abner, crews responded to the military plane crash and initially found the pilot of the aircraft missing. Mike Casabonne, an area rancher, said he was driving nearby when he came upon the pilot of the aircraft, who already had been located by another rancher. Casabonne said the pilot was leaning against the rancher's pickup truck, apparently in good health when Casabonne arrived. Casabonne said the unidentified pilot used his radio to contact Air Force officials before using Casabonne's cell phone to call his wife and assure her that he was safe. He was soon airlifted to Holloman for treatment. Crews remained on the scene to mop up the fire throughout the afternoon, creating a lot of traffic through ranch gates and fences, said Casabonne...more

Witnesses at the scene reported that in between rescuing the pilot, putting out the fire and dealing with a horde of bureaucrats, Casabonne bought a load of feed, fixed some fence, helped a neighbor gather a bull and put the finishing touches on his column for the NM Stockman.

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