A pilot driving a “kit” plane safely made an emergency landing at at around noon today after his plane’s engine suddenly shut off, according to witnesses at the scene and First Selectman Dan Steward.
An elderly man reportedly flying alone from Buffalo to the Groton Airport in a “kit” plane had his engine unexpectedly shut off just off the coast of Waterford, according to Steward. The man made an emergency landing in Alewife Cove within Waterford Beach, and came out without getting injured, according to Steward.
“He did a great job,” Steward said.
The man has been identified by The Day as 74-year-old Kenyon Riches.
Dozens of witnesses on the sands of Waterford Beach saw the plane fly over their heads and into Alewife Cove. Because the plane’s engine died, it was completely silent, witness Joey Persi said.
“I thought it was a kite at first,” Persi said.
Billy Barros was sitting on his chair at the beach and watched the plane fly about 50 feet over his head, and disappear into the park's marshes. Barros was not sure what happened to the pilot, and feared for the worst.
"I didn't know what was going on,” Barros said. “I didn't know if he made it.”
But Riches was fine, refusing an ambulance and walking around, talking to emergency responders after the landing. Emergency responders were still on scene as of 3 p.m., waiting for a member of the Federal Aviation Administration to come and investigate the landing.
Steward said there was gas in the plane's engine. There was no fuel leak from the plane, which was good news because a fuel leak into Alewife Cove would potentially destroy a key waterway, Steward said.