Baker house hit by plane finally torn down

Homeowner pre-empts vote on matter by City Council

It’s taken more than nine months, but the owner of a house on Rue Jennifer that was hit by a plane on June 7 had a wrecking crew tear down the dilapidated structure Monday, one day before the Baker City Council was slated to vote on demolishing the home.

Neighbors who live on Rue Jennifer and Rue Nicole have complained to city officials since late last year about the lack of progress on the home at 5404 Rue Jennifer.

Neighbors have complained about the house, calling it an eyesore that is affecting their property values. They also have expressed concerns about possible safety issues.

Until late Monday morning, the torn and frayed house had more than half of the roof crushed in, with the left side of the home charred from fire.

The backyard was 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.

City officials have called Smith in the past and sent him a certified letter asking him to appear at council meetings to report a plan of action for the home. Smith has ignored those requests.

Smith did not return phone calls or emails Monday seeking comment.

Mayor Harold Rideau, who has said he was personally frustrated with the lack of progress on the house, said Smith hired the crew and tore down the house Monday at his own expense.

“We found out last week when the contractor picked up the permit,” Rideau said Monday afternoon.

Even though Smith told Rideau on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, when the two saw each other at a public function, that he would come and meet with the mayor to talk about his plan for the house, Smith never did, the mayor said.

Smith’s home was one of three in the neighborhood damaged by the plane crash.

One of the two other damaged houses, adjacent to Smith’s, belongs to Van Wright and his family. The Wrights renovated and repaired their home before moving back into the home in December.

“It took long enough,” Van Wright said Monday afternoon during the demolition.

“It all could have been done a lot sooner than this. We’re grateful he finally took care of it and did the right thing,” Wright said.

Rideau said the demolition matter will be taken off Tuesday’s meeting agenda.

“But he still has to maintain it and cut the grass as the property owner,” Rideau said.

The plane crash killed Mississippi pilot John Carey Fowler, 71. None of the residents in the neighborhood were injured.

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

Smith’s home had the most damage.

The cause of the crash has not yet been determined by NTSB officials.

The plane was owned by Mississippi businessman Claude Penn, who had just purchased it in Austin, Texas.