GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Authorities are calling the pilot of a plane that crashed on the University of Florida campus a hero for the way he handled the situation and making sure no one was hurt.
The pilot, Graham Hill, was hospitalized in Gainesville Saturday night but is expected to make a full recovery. His passenger, Ian Conrad, had minor injuries.
The plane was forced to land because of mechanical problems.
It's not the first time the pilot or the plane have been in an emergency situation. On New Years 2013, the plane was hit by a stray bullet while Graham flew over Talleyrand. Graham was grazed by the bullet, but was still able to land the plane.
The plane crashed on the campus of the University of Florida on Saturday afternoon near tailgaters gathered for the Gator game against Arkansas.
Police said the plane was carrying a banner around the campus just after 4 p.m. when it suddenly lost power and the plane's propeller stopped.
Hill found an open area of Flavet Field to land in to make an emergency landing.
Officials on the ground moved everyone out of the way when they noticed the plane was coming down. The plane rolled on the ground and bounced into a tree-filled area south of the band shell, according to University of Florida Police Chief Linda Stump.
"It just made a tremendous noise, something I won't forget for a while," said Joseph Giardina, who witnessed the incident. "I ran over there as fast as I could to see if I could help getting the crew out."
Police said the plane, a a Cessna 172F Skyhawk, bounced once and skidded while making the emergency landing. The plane landed upside-down on a vacant pickup truck.
"We noticed metal beams ripped apart. People were rushing to the scene to find out what happened," said Guillermo Pradieu.
Both Hill and Conrad were taken to UF Health Shands Hospital with minor injuries.
"I saw one of the pilots had already bailed from the plane by the time I made it over there," said Pradieu.
No one on the ground was hurt.
The plane is registered to Beach Banners Inc. in Jacksonville.
Stump told the Gainesville Sun that neither the Federal Aviation Administration nor the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate because of the federal government shutdown.
Instead, the aviation unit of the Alachua County Sheriff's Office will collect information, Stump said.
Stump said her agency has tried to limit banner-towing planes since 2001, but with no success.
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