Actor known for roles in Indiana Jones, Blade Runner and Star Wars films reportedly conscious and breathing after crashing small plane on golf course in California.
Harrison Ford has been injured and hospitalised after crashing a small plane onto a golf course near Los Angeles.
The 72-year-old actor suffered “moderate” injuries after crashing the vintage two-seater plane he was piloting on to the green at Penmar golf course near Santa Monica’s municipal airport on Thursday afternoon. Paramedics found him to be “alert and conscious” and suffering “moderate trauma”, Patrick Butler, Los Angeles assistant fire chief, told a press conference at the scene.
Paramedics “initiated spinal immobilisation, started an IV and began all the necessary medical protocols that we do,” Butler said.
He added: “We are very thankful that the passenger had [only] very moderate injuries.”
Reports said Ford suffered lacerations to his face and possible fractures. Television news footage taken showed him on a stretcher being taken into an ambulance.
The United Talent Agency, which represents Ford, said in a statement that his plane stalled upon take off. “He had no other choice but to make an emergency landing, which he did safely. He was banged up and is in the hospital receiving medical care. The injuries sustained are not life threatening, and he is expected to make a full recovery.”
Several hours after the crash the actor’s son, Ben, tweeted: “At the hospital. Dad is ok. Battered, but ok! He is every bit the man you would think he is. He is an incredibly strong man.” He expressed thanks for people’s “thoughts and good vibes for my dad”.
The Star Wars actor reported engine failure to the Santa Monica airport control tower moments after taking off. In a curt, composed-sounding message he requested “immediate return” and was cleared to land but did not make it to the runway.
Ford is a veteran pilot and has survived at least one previous accident. He was the only occupant of the plane, a Ryan PT-22 Recruit, which was used for training during the second world war.
Ian Gregor, a Federal Aviation Authority spokesman, told the Guardian the single-engine plane went down on the golf course west of Santa Monica airport at around 2.30pm. “The only person on board was transported to a hospital.”
The plane crashed in balmy, cloudless conditions. It clipped a tree, severing branches, before ploughing deep grooves in the grass and coming to a halt at the eight tee, crumpled but largely intact. It was not immediately clear if the pilot improvised a crash-landing or lost control, said Butler.
A Los Angeles Police Department spokeswoman, Officer Nuria Vanegas, told reporters the sole occupant was transported to a local hospital in stable condition and blamed the crash on mechanical failure. “It was mechanical failure of plane. That’s what caused the accident.”
Patrick Jones, a National Transportation Safety Board investigator, told a press conference the pilot, whom he did not name, was “absolutely” lucky to escape with his life.
“We believe that he is going to survive... Anytime a pilot survives an accident, that is a good thing. I’m sure the pilot is glad that there was a golf course here. ”
Jones said the pilot reported engine trouble and that the plane appeared to clip the top of a tree. He declined to speculate on the cause of the crash, saying investigators will recover the plane on Friday for a probe that will last months. “This is the very beginning of the investigation. We’ll look at everything. Man, machine, everything.”
Carlos Lugo, 63, said he was playing golf at the course when he saw the plane turn around in an apparent attempt to return to the runway. “When he flew over us we knew it was too late to make it back to the airport.” It went through some trees as it came down, he said.
Bystanders at the course rushed to help. An eyewitness, Howard Tabe, an employee of the golf club, told NBC he put a blanket under Ford’s hip. “There was blood all over his face.” He said two doctors who happened to be nearby also helped. “Two very fine doctors were treating him, taking good care of him.”
Santa Monica’s small, single-runway airport requires planes to bank to the left after take-off to minimise noise for the mostly well-heeled, coastal community below.
Critics have lobbied for years to close it, citing safety concerns. Four people died in 2013 when a twin-engine Cessna Citation crashed into a hangar and burst into flames.
Federal records indicate detail at least 11 crashes involving planes coming and going from Santa Monica since 1989, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Cruise are among the celebrities who keep planes there. The Raiders of the Lost Ark star joined other airport tenants in blocking an attempt to close it in 2013.
Ford, whose roles as as Indiana Jones and Han Solo made him one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, has piloted planes and helicopters for decades.
He adores flying’s “combination of freedom and responsibility”, he said in a 2002 Playboy interview. “It’s anonymity. I’m not Harrison Ford, I’m November 1128 Sierra.”
Ford survived a bad crash while practicing auto-rotations in a Bell 206 helicopter in 1999 Santa Clara, outside Los Angeles. He escaped unhurt.
In 2000, strong winds forced him to make an emergency landing in a six-passenger Beechcraft Bonanza.
He broke his left leg last summer while filming a scene inside the Millennium Falcon spaceship for the JJ Abrams-directed Star Wars sequel, Episode VII.
The actor is due to reprise his lead role in the dystopian sci-fi film Blade Runner later this year.