St Louis Post-Dispatch, March 28, 2000


An off-duty Missouri state trooper injured when his light plane crashed during a volunteer charity mission to Central America was recovering Monday in a Guatemala hospital, officials said.

Highway Patrol Sgt. Hubert Looney, 56, of Florissant, was hurt Thursday night when the plane he was piloting went down short of a runway in Guatemala City.

Looney suffered broken ribs, a broken collarbone and severe bruises when his single-engine craft lost power about two miles short of the runway, officials said. He was using vacation time to fly the mission for Wings of Hope Inc., an
international charity. His Piper T-Tail Lance airplane was loaded with medical supplies donated by the Catholic Diocese of Belleville and intended for children in remote areas of Central America.

Douglas Clements, director of the Chesterfield-based charity, said poor communications prevented his group from confirming details of the crash and Looney's condition until Monday.

Looney told Clements on Monday that he expected to return to the St. Louis area later this week.

Clements said Looney managed to crash land the plane in a narrow strip between densely-packed houses and shops that are built right up to the edge of the airstrip in downtown Guatemala City.

"He was coming in to land and his engine just quit on him," said Clements. "He didn't have a lot of altitude or open space to work with."

Sgt. Terry St. Clair is Looney's supervisor at the Missouri Highway Patrol, where both men are public information officers.

"I've worked with Hubert for 22 years and he's just the kind of guy who can't do enough to help other people," St. Clair said.

Looney has been a volunteer with Wings of Hope for almost nine years and never crashed a plane before, Clements said.

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