The Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office chief deputy escaped a crash in Lake Guntersville Sunday evening with just a few scratches after the engine failed on his friend’s airplane. Wade and Tom Bonds, the pilot, decided to go for an afternoon ride around northeastern Alabama after they attended services at Mt. Zion Baptist Church on Sunday. The spur-of-the-moment trip was intended partially to calm his fears about flying, Wade said.
“He told me he’s been a pilot for 20 years, and he’s never had a problem,” said Wade, who told Bonds the last time he stepped foot in a plane in May, the engine failed. At that time, Wade was training with the Sheriff’s Office in a powered parachute plane and had to make an emergency landing along the side of Alabama 21.
“God has made it crystal clear,” Wade said. “He doesn’t want me on a plane.”
Wade said Bonds set off from Gadsden on Sunday around 3:30 p.m. and the two flew over Ohatchee and Alexandria before heading towards Guntersville when the engine on the plane stopped. Bonds called the Guntersville airport for an emergency landing, but fell short of the runway.
“I never lost confidence in Tom,” Wade said. “He’s a good pilot and he did everything he could. He kept saying, ‘I’m sorry,’ and I said, ‘Tommy, I should be apologizing. Every time I get on a plane the motor stops.’”
The Federal Aviation Administration said the Piper PA 32 aircraft went into the water just short of Runway 21 shortly after 5 p.m. Sunday. The administration is investigating the circumstances of the crash.
Attempts to reach Bonds on Monday were unsuccessful, but Wade said the Southside man headed to Guntersville Monday morning to check out the damage to his aircraft.
“I’m not a plane expert, but it looked broken,” Wade said.
Wade said that before takeoff the two prayed for safety, and said they were both lucky to walk away unharmed, with Wade suffering just a cut to his head when he landed on the control panel during the crash.
After landing in the water, Wade and Bonds sat on top of the plane while they waited for help. Wade called his boss, Calhoun County Sheriff Larry Amerson, who rode to Guntersville with Wade’s wife, Dena.
“I was in disbelief,” Amerson said. “I know Mr. Bonds and know he’s a good, solid person. It was a strange situation.”
Wade said he didn’t get too much sleep Sunday night. Adrenaline kept him up, and then he got called to investigate a shooting in Ohatchee around midnight.
At 9 a.m. Monday, he was back in his office.
“There’s work to be done,” said a laughing Wade from his office, with a slight gash visible in his forehead.
“If he needed the day off, certainly we would have given him one,” Amerson said. “Sometimes after a spooky experience, being in a familiar place is comforting.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Staff Writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.