Plane crash wreckage remains eyesore for Baker neighborhood

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- One of the three houses that were hit in June during a plane crash in Baker is located at 5404 Rue Jennifer Drive. It was the worst hit and since nothing has been done yet to fix it, condemnation proceedings are moving forward.
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- One of the three houses that were hit in June during a plane crash in Baker is located at 5404 Rue Jennifer Drive. It was the worst hit and since nothing has been done yet to fix it, condemnation proceedings are moving forward.

Plane crash wreckage remains eyesore for Baker neighborhood

Seven months after a small plane crashed into a Baker residential neighborhood near Baton Rouge Metro Airport, the wreckage left behind remains an ugly reminder to neighbors who live nearby.

Although the pilot in the plane was killed, miraculously, nobody in the neighborhood was injured. But the aftermath of the crash has Baker resident James Larry upset and frustrated.

Larry, who lives on Rue Jennifer across the street from two of the three houses damaged by the plane, leaves his house each day and has to look at the damage left behind.

While two of the houses have been almost completely redone, the third, at 5404 Rue Jennifer, suffered the most serious damage and looks like the plane crashed into it yesterday.

“It’s a real eyesore. I feel like the city should have done something to the house by now. At a minimum, somebody should have cleaned the house up,” Larry said Friday.

According to a preliminary crash report by the National Transportation and Safety Board, the Beechcraft B200GT King Air plane that took off from the airport on June 7 first hit a home on Rue Nicole before crashing into two homes on Rue Jennifer.

The crash killed 71-year-old pilot John Cary Fowler of Brookhaven, Miss., who was flying from Baton Rouge that day to an airport in McComb, Miss.

Larry said it “still looks like a bomb went off over there,” referring to the property that suffered the worst damage, at 5404 Rue Jennifer.

The home’s garage is torn off and boarded up, and more than half of the roof is crushed in. The left side of the home is charred from fire and the backyard is littered with appliances and garbage bags filled with the personal belongings of the former residents.

The house and property are owned by the Rev. Michael L. Smith, pastor of the New Covenant Christian Center on East Myrtle Avenue in Baker. He did not return phone calls or emails to comment on the status of his property and was not at his church Friday.

It’s unclear why the home hasn’t been repaired or torn down yet, but Larry said he’s concerned because he and his family plan to move to a new home in Zachary later this year and he has to put his home up for sale.

“We’re already known as the plane crash neighborhood. But we also still have this house that looks like this. I don’t know if I will be able to sell the house,” Larry said.

Baker Mayor Harold Rideau is also unhappy with the lack of progress at the severely damaged home.

“I’m real disappointed in what’s going on. There shouldn’t be a hold up this far out, and I’m bringing it up again at Tuesday’s council meeting,” Rideau said Thursday.

Condemnation of the property is on the Baker City Council’s agenda for discussion and possible action at its meeting on Tuesday. The council voted unanimously in December to give Smith 90 days to provide the city with a plan for action for the home.

During the Dec. 17 meeting, Smith told the council he was waiting on the official investigation report from the Baton Rouge Metro Airport and would make a decision on what to do with the property after reviewing the report.

Rideau said the only report that still needs to be issued as a result of the plane crash is the final crash report by the NTSB.

Meanwhile, Larry, his wife and two children still have to look at the eyesore across the street. And Larry said it’s a safety issue for a neighborhood filled with children.

“My son has to walk to his bus stop on Groom Road each morning,” Larry said. “You know with this cold weather there are probably homeless people who use that home. It’s a safety problem, and it’s dangerous for kids.”

The Baker City Council meeting starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Baker City Hall on Groom Road.