Veteran pilot crashes powered parachute in Yakima River

Barely visible along the surface of the Yakima River is the parachute from Bill Nelson’s powered parachute.

Photo by Jennie McGhan
Barely visible along the surface of the Yakima River is the parachute from Bill Nelson’s powered parachute.


In spite of his ordeal and being cold, Bill Nelson is all smiles as he fields questions from the news media.

A chilled and grateful Bill Nelson said he was happy to have escaped his powered parachute when it crashed into the Yakima River near North River Road west of Prosser on Wednesday morning.

The instructor owner of Skystriders, he said he maneuvered his aircraft lower than he should have.

“The wheels caught in the water,” he said.

There are a several homes nearby, and the owner of one, Kathy Easterly, said she was taking the time to relax and read a book at the time of the crash.

“I heard a strange noise,” she said, noting the noise grew in volume, causing her to leave her perch and look out the window.

“All I could see was the balloon (parachute) on top of the water,” Easterly said.

Nelson fought to unbuckle his seat belt, as well as to untangle himself from the radio lines in the seconds after the crash. He emerged to stand atop the frame of the aircraft.

“When he came up, all I could see was his helmet and then I yelled I called 9-1-1,” Easterly said.

“I’m just glad for a good outcome.”

When firefighters from West Benton Fire Rescue arrived, they needed a way to get to Nelson, and Easterly was more than happy to provide them use of her pontoon boat.

A little shaken from the ordeal, Nelson continued to smile as he said he enjoys being a pilot.

He admitted it wasn’t his first crash.

Last year, he was providing instruction on a two-seat powered parachute, and the student flew too close to power lines near Mensonides Dairy in Mabton.

Nelson also flies fixed wing airplanes and gliders.

It took personnel about three hours to retrieve the craft from the river Wednesday.

The Federal Aviation Administration quickly cleared his license and determined it didn’t need to investigate, according to officials with West Benton Fire Rescue.


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