Pilot survives crash that clipped 2 Utah houses

Dec. 5: Firefighters and police comb through plane crash wreckage in front of a home in Roy, Utah.

Dec. 5: Firefighters and police comb through plane crash wreckage in front of a home in Roy, Utah.  (The Salt Lake Tribune, via AP)

Authorities said Monday it was a miracle that a pilot survived a plane crash without injuring 17 people inside two houses clipped by the plane's wings and set afire in a northern Utah town.

"To have everybody alive, it's pretty amazing," Fire Chief Jon Ritchie told The Associated Press from Roy, about 30 miles north of Salt Lake City.

Clayton Roop, 46, of West Haven, was returning Sunday from Lake Powell when he landed about 2,100 feet short of a runway in heavy fog at the Ogden-Hinckley Airport, Ritchie said.

Roop hit a tree and a power pole, and the wings of his single-engine Cessna 210 clipped the roofs of two houses before crashing into a backyard. He was thrown about 6 feet from the plane with severe burns covering a third of his body, but he was able to talk, Ritchie said.

Roop was in critical condition Monday at University of Utah Hospital burn center, hospital spokesman Chris Nelson said.

"He's got a long recovery ahead," Nelson said.

Ritchie said 14 people were sitting down to dinner Sunday inside the first house the plane hit. Three others were in the second house also set ablaze by the crash. Nobody was hurt.

Pieces of the aircraft were scattered around the block, police Sgt. Darin Calcut said. The plane knocked out power to about 1,700 residences for three hours, Ritchie said.

Resident Gary Cox helped pull the pilot, who was alone, from the wreckage. Cox said he had burns on his hands and face, but he was coherent, KSL-TV reported.

Neighborhood resident Jennifer Kelly told The Salt Lake Tribune her home lost power just before 6 p.m.

"That was followed about a second later by an orange flash — a huge orange flash. Another second later, a blue flash," Kelly said. "I ran across our front room, pulled back the curtains and could see flames shooting up through the pine trees over at (the neighbors') house."

The pilot offered no explanation for the crash, which is under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration, Ritchie said.

"It was clearly pilot error," airport manager Ed Rich told the Salt Lake City Fox affiliate KSTU.