Friends say pilot in crash is ‘fan of flying,’ had problems with plane in the past

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Two people are recovering from severe burns after their plane crashed into a house. It happened in the 2200 block of Broadmoor Lane in Columbus, Ind., at 9:45 a.m. Thursday.

Both men are in the Wishard Hospital burn unit. The pilot, Gerald Clayton, 81, is in serious condition. Dennis King, the passenger, has been upgraded to fair condition.

Friends of Clayton tell Fox59 he spent nine years building the Glastar-GS1 after he retired, but has had problems with it in the past.

“It was a big deal to him. He had nine, 10 years of sheer joy there,” said Don Cordry, a family friend of Clayton. “I know he’s going to be upset over what caused this. It was something they thought was fixed and it wasn’t evidently.”

Witnesses recall seeing the single-engine, home-built plane flying too low and the engine was sputtering.

“He was losing altitude and I thought that guy’s gonna crash. I followed him all the way down,” said Joe Andrew, a neighbor.

Hiroko Nakao, the woman living in the house, made it out without a scratch. She escaped to a neighbor’s house to call police.

“[I’m] very surprised,” said Nakao. “Suddenly, I heard a big sound. I heard a big sound in the house.”

Cordry hopes his close friend will get better.

“I just hope he’s not suffering too much. Something must have hay-wired,” he said. “I don’t know what it is. I don’t know he knows yet.”

Columbus Police, Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Office, Indiana State Police and Bartholomew County Emergency Management Agency are assisting the FAA in the investigation.