Nebraska Public Power says it could take some time to make permanent repairs to the 230-kilovolt electrical transmission line damaged Monday by a crashing cropduster just north of Scottsbluff.
Repair crews quickly restored power after the crash, but the problem is that at least 8 of the line’s towers were snapped off or otherwise damaged when the biplane owned by WESTCO cut several of the individual cables.
NPPD hasn’t released an official statement yet, but Scotts Bluff County Sheriff Mark Overman says he understands it could take a month or more to complete repairs even though crews from York, North Platte, and Ogallala have already joined Panhandle crews in starting the process.
On a related issue, Sheriff Overman told KNEB News that the National Transportation Safety Board will not be sending investigators to site of the crash after all because the agency was satisfied with the details provided by local investigators.
Those included extensive interviews with the pilot and witnesses, as well as pictures and drone footage of the crash scene.
Overman also released additional details of an accident caused when one of the dangling transmission cables was hit by a semi hauling cattle, catching the truck at bumper level and shooting up and over the cab to damage the top of the trailer.
The truck driver, 54-year old Jerry Landin of Colorado says he didn’t see the plane crash or the power line and that he became aware of the line when his windshield “exploded” – adding that he was lucky he was wearing glasses that protected his eyes.
Sheriff Overman says it took Landin more than 800-feet to stop the semi, but both Landin and the cattle were not injured.
The pilot, 65-year old Michael Uhlken of rural Scottsbluff, was found by a nearby resident sitting on the cockpit of the upside down and totally destroyed plane. Uhlken was take by ambulance to Regional West Medical Center where he was treated and released later in the afternoon.