It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Axl Rose! Crazy air incidents above 1990’s MurrayFeb 07, 2022 02:07PM ● By Shaun Delliskave
A backhoe supports a plane that crashed at the Goodtime Video store in 1996. (Photo courtesy RaLynn Delliskave)
By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]
“That wasn’t flying. That was falling with style,” says Woody, describing Buzz Lightyear’s aerial acrobatics in the 1996 movie “Toy Story.” That quote, equally apropos, defines the crazy but fortunately non-lethal air crash and emergency landing incidents in 1990’s Murray.
While Murray has always had one of the most active helicopter pads in Utah—at then-Cottonwood Hospital and now IMC—it has no airport. Only an intense thunderstorm would send Salt Lake Airport’s air traffic over the city, so there was no need to worry about falling aircraft, until one crashed on a video store in 1990.
An explanation for those born after the year 2000: video stores were popular places in the 1980s and ’90s where people had to physically go and check out movie cassettes or discs and take them home to watch. Friday nights were typically busy at the Goodtime Video store at 5470 S. 900 East, with people racing in to get the latest releases. A steep late fee was incurred if the video was not returned Sunday night, so people rushed over in their cars or, in this case, April 21, 1996, a Cessna 150.
Customers walking out of the neighboring Albertsons grocery store were shocked to see a plane slowly and silently gliding over the parking lot that evening. The novice pilot, LeeAnn Olson, targeted a tall pine tree adjacent to the video shop.
Witnesses recall the pilot pulling up so the tree would cushion the plane. Fortunately, the pilot, tree, and video store escaped with minor cuts. The pilot had flown to Fillmore, Utah, from Salt Lake Airport No. 2, and for her return trip, bought only four gallons of fuel. She hit empty above Murray.
Murray FD used ladders to help the pilot exit the plane, which, swaying on top of the tree, attracted far more visitors to the video store than on a typical Sunday night. What was never revealed was the reason the pilot didn’t fully refuel, why she overflew the airport by several miles, and why she chose a tree in the parking lot versus all the fields, playgrounds, and vacant lots that she had to fly over to get to that tree.
Murray Police Sgt. Terry Steed joked to the Salt Lake Tribune, “I don’t think she was trying to rent a video. She may have been dropping one off.”
Murray’s weirdest air incident involved rock star Axl Rose and a lighter-than-air aircraft. The lead singer of Guns N’ Roses was having an awful visit to Utah in July 1991. Public safety officials were in no mood for the raucous crowd expected at their concert. Just weeks earlier, the Salt Palace saw several fans crushed to death at an AC/DC concert, and security was fearing the worst.
GN’R had just played St. Louis, where a riot erupted after the concert; as a result, Delta Center (now Vivint Arena) officials hired a large security contingent and forced concertgoers to stay in their seats and not crowd the stage. The appreciative yet subdued audience saw the band walk off without performing an encore. Several weeks later, in Tacoma, Rose revealed that he’d hated the SLC concert.
But perhaps his bitterness was due more to his hard landing in Murray the day after the concert. While not a mode of transportation associated with a hard rocker, Rose was flying above the Salt Lake Valley in a hot air balloon.
Dallin Nelson, who lived on Lupine Way at the time, recalls, “So my family was sitting on the back patio enjoying a summer evening dinner when they heard the noise of a hot air balloon trying to clear the houses. The balloon was settling over the lake, with the air being so hot it wasn’t rising too well.” Nelson’s video of Rose’s emergency landing can be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=WD26-UyLbNs
Rose was indeed in danger of crashing into Turners Lake and possibly drowning. Luckily, the pilot got enough lift to maneuver the balloon to the corner of Lupine Way and Lillie Circle.
John Liston, who lived a few doors down from the landing site, recalls, “He was very nice and talked to all the neighbors who came outside to see what was going on. As he waited for a car that would come to pick him up, he posed for pictures and shook the hands of those around him. It was an evening I will never forget, as it was disbelief that Axl Rose crash-landed in our neighborhood.”
A support team descended on the east Murray neighborhood, where residents helped Rose pack the errant balloon into a trailer. Guns N’ Roses returned to play Utah again in 2011.