An emergency airplane landing south of Hamilton led to the arrest of two Helena residents on felony theft and drug charges.
The small airplane was forced to make an emergency landing on Highway 93 near Lick Creek south of Hamilton about 4 a.m. Sunday.
Kacey Shane Gessner, 32, of Helena, allegedly told deputies that he was forced to make an emergency landing in the stolen aircraft after its fuel tanks malfunctioned. The plane was reported taken from a Helena-area aviation company.
Gessner appeared Monday before Ravalli County Justice Jennifer Ray on the felony charge and five outstanding warrants from Helena city court.
With its tail lodged in the trees alongside the highway, the aircraft was an unusual sight for people traveling the highway Monday morning, including the judge.
“It was the first time in 56 years that I’ve seen an airplane parked at the Lick Creek corner,” Ray said during the short hearing.
Ray told Gessner she wasn’t sure how he managed to make the landing, which knocked over a "watch for falling rock" sign before the aircraft came to a stop.
“I’m a good pilot,” Gessner told the judge.
According to the charging affidavit, the Cessna’s owner said aircraft was a rental. The person who rented the airplane arrived at the airport and found it was missing.
A Ravalli County man contacted sheriff’s dispatch to report he had picked up the pilot and passengers and gave them a ride to a Hamilton motel.
Ray set bond at $50,000 on the felony theft. The judge also continued more than $23,000 in bond on five warrants from two courts on charges that Gessner failed to appear at several hearings in Helena.
A passenger in the airplane, Brittany Rae Treib, 30, was also arrested on felony charges of criminal possession of dangerous drugs and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence. She was also charged with misdemeanor counts of obstructing a peace officer and criminal possession of dangerous drugs.
A Ravalli County sheriff’s corporal allegedly found a baggie with three grams of amphetamine, four grams of suspected psilocybin mushrooms and two grams of marijuana in a plastic container that contained a photograph of Treib’s Montana identification card in the motel room.
An adult male was also a passenger in the small airplane and was located at the motel. He has not been charged.
Ravalli County Sheriff Steve Holton encouraged anyone who may have witnessed any activity in the area to call his office at 406-363-3033. Holton said the case remains active with information still being discovered.