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Emergency Landing Interstate

Illinois State Police investigate the scene where a small aircraft made an emergency landing on the northbound lanes of Interstate 55 on Wednesday outside of Lincoln.

Jeremy Kampwerth was driving home to O’Fallon, Illinois, on Wednesday with his 9-year-old son after a trip to Chicago to see the Cardinals’ 14-2 rout of the White Sox when they saw the low-flying plane.

The Kampwerths were southbound on Interstate 55 near Lincoln, about 30 miles north of Springfield, about 2:40 p.m. when they spotted the aircraft, which Kampwerth said he initially assumed to be a crop duster.

Seconds later, the plane struck the back of Kampwerth’s car.

“It immediately shattered the back window, and glass was flying forward,” Kampwerth said Wednesday night in a phone interview. “My son was in the back right seat (and) glass was coming at him and he obviously started screaming because he didn’t know what was going on. ... I assumed a truck had come into my lane and hit me, and I looked back at my son and I see that he’s okay, by a quick assessment. Then I looked forward to see that it was a plane that hit us.”

The plane then crashed in the median of the interstate.

Shaken, Kampwerth pulled over and checked on his son, who was uninjured, and then checked on the pilot of the plane, who was also uninjured but seemed to be in shock.

Police said there were no serious injuries from the incident.

Another motorist, Ronald Childs, who was northbound on I-55, saw the plane strike Kampwerth’s car.

“He got really low, right above the cars, and we saw his wheel hit the back of the car, knocking the window out,” he said. “We were still driving, but we couldn’t see him, but knew he wasn’t in the air anymore.”

The pilot was identified by Illinois State Police as William J. Farnsley, 51, of Austin, Ind. They said he was trying to land his single-engine Cessna at the Logan County, Ill., airport when it lost power and he was forced to make an emergency landing.

Hours later, Kampwerth said he was still unnerved by the bizarre incident.

“I’m not settled down yet,” he said. “I’ve been talking to people on the phone and reliving the story and thinking about the story and what could have happened. Somebody called me lucky earlier, and I said ‘No, I was unlucky, I got hit by an airplane.’ But I’m very thankful everybody’s okay.”

— This story includes information from The Pantagraph in Bloomington.

Rachel Rice writes for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a Lee Enterprises sister publication of The Southern.

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