Bullet Pierces Landing Airliner, Passenger Wounded
MORRISVILLE, N.C. (AP) _ The pilot of a United Airlines jetliner was unaware until after he’d landed that a bullet fired from the ground had torn through the plane’s belly, wounding a passenger, authorities said.
Barry Rollins, 30, of New York, was in stable condition Wednesday night at Rex Hospital with wounds to the thigh and cheek, officials said.
Rollins was wounded as Flight 1502, a Boeing 737, approached Raleigh-Durham Airport on Wednesday, said Matt Gonring, director of media relations for United Airlines in Chicago.
Marine Pvt. Jeff Dillard of Camp Lejeune, one of 16 passengers, said he was two rows behind Rollins when he heard a popping sound as the bullet left a hole 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter in the passenger compartment and hit Rollins.
″I was helping hold a compress on his face,″ Dillard said. ″I think he was pretty much in shock as anyone would be.″
Passenger Geroge Chambers said Rollins responded, ″I don’t know,″ when a stewardess asked him what was wrong.
Don Paschall, chief of airport police, said planes in that position normally are 500 to 1,000 feet off the ground.
The plane, which left Wilmington at 4:50 p.m., landed without further incident at 5:25 p.m., he said. The jet was impounded and passengers heading for the next stop, Dulles Airport in Washington, were put on another plane.
The landing was not affected by the shooting, said Kay Lund, a United spokeswoman. ″The pilot wasn’t even aware of the incident until he landed.″
″We did find a penetration of the fuselage of the aircraft shortly behind the wing on the right-hand side and the penetration did go through to the passenger compartment to the seat where the subject was sitting,″ Paschall said. ″We don’t know if this was intentional or accidental.″
″There’s a hole outside the aircraft the size of a quarter,″ airport director John Brantley III said at a news conference. ″The hole inside is a little larger, as would be expected.″
Highway Patrol Sgt. C.M. Cummings said, ″It was definitely a bullet.″
Police searched roads and woods south of the airport, but there were no reports of arrests or unusual sightings Wednesday night.
″We have secured the scene and we are awaiting the arrival of the FBI,″ Paschall said. ″We have searched the aircraft ourselves and the FBI will also do so.″
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Roger Myers said the agency has been informed, but is not investigating. ″It’s something for the local authorities to handle,″ he said.