Police identified a pilot who was saved by neighbors after his home-built aircraft crashed into the front yard of a Whitpain Township, Pennsylvania home Sunday afternoon.
Phillip David Beckner Jr., 29, of Crofton, Maryland, was flying his single-engine VariEze-style plane when the aircraft went down just after 5 p.m. along Meade Road, police said.
Beckner had landed at Wings Field, a small airport, earlier in the day to visit friends in the area. After departing from Wings Field later in the day, his plane crashed about a mile from the runway in the Broad Axe Village section of Whitpain Township.
Witnesses and police said the plane lost altitude shortly after takeoff and hit several trees before breaking apart on the front lawn of a home.
A pair of neighbors — Douglas DiSandro and Brian McShain — rushed to the wreckage and started searching for Beckner.
"I heard gurgling in a bush and we found where the pilot was," DiSandro said.
When they got into the bush, they found Beckner being choked by the plane's seat belt. The men lifted his body to relieve the pressure on his neck until another person brought scissors to cut him free.
"He relieved the pressure on his neck and he started gasping again," DiSandro said.
Paramedics took Beckner to Penn Presbyterian Trauma Center in Philadelphia where he remained Monday. Police said his injuries didn't appear to be life-threatening, but a condition was not available.
Wreckage was strewn across the lawn and garden of 25 Meade Road. It appears the house was spared from being hit. There was a person inside the home when the crash happened.
"We're very fortunate that nobody got hurt on this scene. It's amazing," Whitpain Twp. Police Chief Kenneth Lawson said.
VariEze aircraft debuted in the 1970s and are a cheaper alternative to other popular small aircraft like Cessna or Piper, according to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The planes are typically made of composite foam and fiberglass, the museum said.
The Federal Aviation Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board and Whitpain Twp. Police are all investigating the crash.