Walter J. Mitchell

Walter J. Mitchell sits in a room at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. He was hospitalized there Thursday and released on Friday. He suffered a fractured right arm and some bruising of the ribs in a plane crash in Carroll County on Thursday.

A day after being hospitalized following a plane crash in Carroll County, Walter J. Mitchell of Vaiden says he’s feeling fine.

“I’m doing good,” the 72-year-old Democratic candidate for Carroll County District 5 supervisor said Friday.

Mitchell, a pilot for 35 years, had been flying his single-engine Beechcraft B23 Musketeer Thursday afternoon with three passengers — his friend, David Jagson, 45,  who lives in South Carolina but was vacationing in Mississippi; Jagson’s 7-year-old son, Evans; and Mitchell’s 7-year-old grandson, Jayden.

“We were just flying around for pleasure,” Mitchell said.

The group had left Winona Municipal Airport and had been in the air for about an hour before the plane stalled, Mitchell said.  The aircraft crashed in a field belonging to his neighbor about 50 yards from Mitchell’s private airstrip.

Plane crash

The plane Walter J. Mitchell was piloting lies where it crashed in a field near Vaiden, some 50 yards short of his private airstrip where he had attempted to land Thursday. Three passengers were on board the plane along with Mitchell. No one was severely injured.

Mitchell and Jagson were seated at the front of the plane. Mitchell was airlifted by helicopter to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, and Jagson was transported there by ambulance Thursday. Both were discharged from UMMC Friday.

The two children, who were seated in the back of the plane, were taken to Tyler Holmes Memorial Hospital in Winona. Jagson said neither his son nor Mitchell’s grandson suffered major injuries. All four were wearing their seat belts.

“I got a fractured (right) arm — they got it in a cast — and I guess a few rib bruises,” Mitchell said. “Everybody got a little scrape, but they’re sitting here and talking.”

Jagson said that when the plane crashed, his body was “thrown through the front windshield,” and he found himself about 40 feet away from the plane. He had hit the ground with his left shoulder, which was dislocated, and he also had facial lacerations.

Jagson said he didn’t know why the seat belt came apart.

Notwithstanding his injuries, Jagson said he was able to get up and fetch the children out of the plane through the opening of where the front window used to be.

Mitchell was taken out of the plane with the assistance of Carroll County Emergency Management personnel.

He described what happened before the crash.  

As he was approaching his  landing strip, he realized that he wouldn’t be able to properly “touch down” the plane.

“You need to land at the beginning of the landing strip. You don’t wait to land on the landing striping halfway down; otherwise you may not come to a full stop by the end of the strip,” Mitchell said. The strip is 2,600 feet long.

Because he was halfway down his landing strip, Mitchell put the plane in “full power,” with the engine throttle wide open, similar to when it’s taking off, and lifted the nose of the plane. Unfortunately, the plane began to stall, which happens when the speed of the plane is too slow for the amount of climb it’s trying to achieve — and Mitchell began to lose control.

“After the plane stalled, I knew it was going to crash somewhere,” Mitchell said.

He lessened the impact of the plane’s crash by pulling the yoke, the plane’s control, toward himself to continue to raise the nose of the plane and prevent it from hitting the ground directly.

“I was just off my airstrip, just over my fence” when the plane went down, Mitchell said. No troubles seemed to have emerged during the flight. Mitchell said he always checks his blood pressure before flying and felt fine.

Jagson, who’s known Mitchell for 27 years, said, “I felt very safe flying with Mitch.”

Mitchell, now retired, worked 25 years for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Job Corps, and he was a heavy equipment instructor for the Job Corps in Bristol, Tennessee. He and Jagson, then a teenager, met when Mitchell was an instructor.

After experiencing a tumultuous event, Mitchell said he’s ready to get back to campaigning for public office, which he had been doing by approaching people door to door.

After about a week of rest, Mitchell said, “I should be able to get back out. My arm’s going to be in a cast, but I’ll still get out and campaign.”

Contact Gerard Edic at 581-7239 or gedic@gwcommonwealth.com.

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