STURGIS — Looking back on those tense moments before the crash, Tony DeCino still doesn’t know how things went so wrong so fast.
The airplane was running fine. The wind was light. A low pass over the brown pastures of the Cheyenne River breaks put him and gunner Dan Turgeon within 50 yards of the furry targets below.
And the 12-gauge shotgun bucked repeatedly against Turgeon’s shoulder, firing clusters of heavy steel shot that sent two coyotes tumbling into the grass.
To that point, it was a perfect run.
“We’d killed both coyotes. We’d already pulled up, cleared the terrain and were in a descent to go back and check on the animals,” DeCino said. “Over the course of a couple of seconds, things changed from perfectly fine to me trying to maneuver that airplane and us being in the dirt.”
It was the first crash landing for DeCino, a seasoned 54-year-old pilot with 17 years experience as a flight instructor. He walked away with minor injuries and understandably nagging questions about its cause.