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Western North Dakota pilot OK in spray plane crash; plane demolished

Photo Courtesy of the Slope County Sheriff's Department Above is what remains of a plane flown by Boyd Trester on Tuesday. Trester walked away from the crash with only a scratch, but the plane is totaled.

A Sentinel Butte man whose plane crashed in Slope County Tuesday morning walked away from the accident with nothing more than a scratch on his hand. Boyd Trester, 67, said he was spraying crops by Rainy Butte, west of New England, when his plane lost engine power.

"I'm climbing up Rainy Butte to turn and go back and when I got close to the top I'm adding power and I didn't have it," Trester said Thursday. "I lost power on top of the turn."

It is unclear why it lost power.

"Ag aircraft often works in real, real harsh environments and if everything isn't right up to 100 percent, all of a sudden you can find yourself in a pickle in real quick order," said J.B. Lindquist, co-owner of Air Dakota Flite in Hettinger, which owns the plane.

Capt. Tony Huck from the North Dakota Highway Patrol said crop dusters usually fly very close to the ground.

"They want to get down as low as they can," Huck said.

He added the low altitude may have kept Trester from suffering serious injuries.

"I don't think I was 50 feet, probably, above the butte," Trester said. "I came down on top of the butte."

He added his plane then slid off over the edge and stopped.

A combination of low altitude, safety features and luck is what Trester says kept him safe. He also had his seatbelt on, Huck added.

Lindquist said Trester's talent and experience contributed more to his wellbeing than luck did.

"He's an exceptionally good pilot," Lindquist said. "I think if he weren't a good pilot he'd have probably been dead."

Trester said there wasn't much time to think on the way to the ground.

"Everything happens pretty fast," Trester said. "You don't have time for your life to go by in front of you."

However, Trester, who has been in aviation since 1959, said he maintained some control over the plane as it crashed.

"I had enough control to make sure it didn't stall and come down on one wing and cartwheel or something like that because then you've got a real wreck on your hands," Trester said, adding he crashed onto boulders. "I moved the rocks around a little."

The plane was a single engine Weatherly which was not carrying hazardous materials, according to the Slope County Sheriff's Department. Trester said the chemical he was spraying was an environmentally safe fungicide.

Lindquist said the plane was worth $150,000 to $175,000, but is now totaled.

"I think this is probably the first accident we've had in about 30 years," Lindquist said.

Trester walked about two miles to get help after the crash, according to the NDHP.

"I had a phone with me," Trester said. "I called and reported it and had a ride coming right away."

Trester went to West River Regional Clinic, but said he was fine.

Lindquist said the incident didn't slow Trester down.

"He was back flying the next day," Lindquist said. "I'm glad he wasn't hurt."

The Slope County Sheriff's Department and NDHP did not know whose property Trester was spraying at the time of the crash. Lindquist would not say whose it was.

Attempts to reach the Federal Aviation Administration were unsuccessful Thursday.