By Nancy Arsenault
An experimental single engine wooden plane fell into the Assabet River seconds after taking off from Crow Island on Tuesday morning. The plane, with a single occupant, nose-dived straight into the bottom of the river in several feet of water about a quarter mile from the tip of Crow Island.
Alan McNill, working in the hangar nearby, witnessed the accident and immediately grabbed a canoe, tying it behind an SUV and dragging it to the water’s edge, launching it with only a broken section of a 2 x 4 as a paddle. McNill paddled to the pilot, who had extricated himself from the upside down cockpit and was attempting to swim to shore.
At the same time, Stow Fire Lieutenant Barry Evers donned a dive suit and swam to the plane while rescue personnel awaited the arrival of mutual aid marine rescue units. McNill brought the pilot back down the river in the canoe, to the tip of Crow Island where an ambulance was waiting. Evers dove beneath the wreckage to check for any hazardous spills.
The pilot, whose name had not yet been released at press time, incurred lacerations to the face and a possible broken ankle.
Marine Rescue Units from Acton and Maynard assisted Stow Fire and Police at the scene, assessing any environmental contamination from the plane. Further investigations will be done before the plane is removed from the River, according to Stow Fire Chief Joe Landry. McNill, visibly shaken after his rescue mission, said that this was a day he will not soon forget.