POLK COUNTY — Charges have been dismissed against a pilot accused of being high on cannabis when he downed a power line at Riverview Park in Independence July 21, 2019.
Erik von Gottsegen, 66, of Sweet Home, was charged with prohibited operation of aircraft and driving under the influence of intoxicants. However, Linn County Circuit Judge Michael Wynhausen dismissed the charges Dec. 8, said Robin Beechert, operations supervisor of the Linn County District Attorney’s Office.
Polk County District Attorney Aaron Felton declined to press charges against von Gottsegen last year, citing insufficient evidence. The incident was investigated separately by the Lebanon and Independence police departments.
Von Gottsegen, who operates a barber shop in downtown Sweet Home, landed his 2012 Bucher biplane at the Independence State Airport after striking the power line at the park July 21 last year. The biplane is based on German-built models of the 1930s.
He called the landing a “miracle on the Willamette,” but authorities pursued criminal charges.
Von Gottsagen, who logged 1,000 hours in the air since before his pilot’s license three years ago, claimed he took off from the Lebanon State Airport after practicing landings. All was allegedly well until his engine started losing power. He followed the river until he reached Independence, he said.
Pacific Power estimated the damage in an Independence Police Department report at $9,227.
Von Gottsagen said he is relieved to have the charges dismissed because his arrest resulted in him losing the respect and friendship of some of his fellow pilots.