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THURSDAY, JULY 19, 2007
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Neighbor crashes plane into Limestone house

By Holly Hollman
hhollman@decaturdaily.com · 340-2445

GOODSPRINGS — Whenever Steve and Holly Smith returned to their Siniard Road home Wednesday, a note on their door and contact card from Limestone County Sheriff’s Department deputy Justin Flanagan awaited them.

Oh, and a plane that crashed into their house.

Authorities were unable to locate the couple after their neighbor crashed his plane into the corner of their home at about 2:50 p.m., making a hole in their garage. The plane was a Phantom Ultralight, family members said.

The pilot, who is also the couple’s neighbor, Bill Gildersleeve, 54, declined to talk to reporters. His sister, Linda Hunter and her husband, Morris Hunter, said Gildersleeve’s plane started stalling.

Gildersleeve has a grassy runway between his property and the Smith property, located in Goodsprings near the Lauderdale County line.

“He was coming up and for some reason, he was not getting much altitude,” Linda Hunter said.

Morris Hunter said his brother-in-law was going about 40 miles per hour when the plane stalled.

“He saw he would clear the power line, so he went left and hit their house,” Morris Hunter said. “The last thing he wanted to do was hit a power line. That would have likely killed him.”

Morris Hunter said that thankfully, the Smiths and their children were not home.

Linda Hunter was outside watching her brother when the crash occurred.

“I dropped the glass I was holding and ran toward him but realized I couldn’t get over the fence that separates the property,” she said. “By the time I got around the fence, he looked like he was coming around from being unconscious. He crawled out.”

Gildersleeve suffered injuries to his head. His sister took him to a doctor in Athens. She said that her brother probably would need stitches.

Six dogs and a goat watched authorities investigate the crash. Chief Investigator Stanley McNatt said the crash caused about $1,500 damage to the home.

McNatt said the Federal Aviation Administration does not track ultralight planes, but an Federal Aviation Administration representative may visit the scene Thursday.

Morris Hunter said Gildersleeve plans to rebuild the plane and fly it again. He calls the plane “Molly.”

“This is his first crash that I know of,” Morris Hunter said. “He’s been doing this since he was 16.”

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