The unidentified victim stood too close to a parked aircraft while its engine was running, police said.
HOUMA, La. — A 41-year-old woman suffered severe injuries Thursday night after being struck by a spinning airplane propeller at the Houma-Terrebonne Airport, authorities said.
According to Houma Police Sgt. Travis Theriot, the incident occurred about 11:45 p.m. The unidentified victim stood too close to a parked aircraft while its engine was running.
“The propeller struck her in the arm,” Theriot said. “She was transported to a medical facility in New Orleans with severe trauma injuries. The plane was stopped in place but the engine was still running.”
Joe Wheeler, Houma-Terrebonne Airport executive director, said the aircraft did not belong to the victim.
“A gentleman went out to check on his airplane that hadn’t been run in a while,” Wheeler said. “A lady who was with him got out of the truck and inadvertently walked into the prop. From my understanding she’s in stable condition.”
Although such accidents are not common, spinning airplane propellers can be difficult to see in the dark, Wheeler said.
“I’m a pilot also,” Wheeler said. “When you’re running an airplane like that with a prop, it’s hard enough to see during the daytime, but at night you really can’t see it.”
The accident will help tighten safety precautions at the airport to prevent future incidents, Wheeler said.
“Speaking with my other tenants here, we’ve all grown up around airplanes and have been with them for a long time,” Wheeler said. “We sometimes take them for granted. My tenants are tightening up on how they operate. Once this type of incident happens, it creates a lot more respect for the airplane. It’s kind of like when you drive a car and haven’t had a blown tire for three or four years. You start to get complacent and take it for granted. It will be my job to mitigate this risk.”
The accident is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board and federal authorities, Wheeler said.
“It’s a very unfortunate event,” Wheeler said. “We’re hoping and praying everything comes out all right for her.”
Dan Copp is a reporter for The Houma (La.) Courier.