Waller County Sheriff's Office
Marijuana taken from a twin-engine plane.
By Alastair Jamieson, msnbc.com Writer/Editor, London
BROOKSHIRE, Texas — Investigators were on Tuesday trying to figure out how the pilot and possible passengers escaped after a twin-engine plane carrying a large amount of marijuana skidded off a runway at an airport west of Houston.
The small plane, thought to be a 1968 Beechcraft 60, slid into grass after its nose gear collapsed upon landing at the runway of Houston Executive Airport in Brookshire.
Witnesses saw the shadows of a person or people running from the aircraft, but it was unclear how many were aboard, John Kremmer, chief deputy of the Waller County Sheriff's Department, told The Associated Press.
Their escape has puzzled owners of the small airport, which is surrounded by a 10 feet high chain link fence topped with three layers of barbed wire.
Andrew Perry, executive director of the airport, said there were no signs of a hole in the perimeter fence.
“This is the first time anything like this has happened,” he told msnbc.com. “It would take some effort to get over the fence.”
When law enforcement officers arrived at the scene shortly after the incident, at around 7.15 p.m. local time, they found a large amount of marijuana inside the abandoned aircraft, Kremmer told the Associated Press.
"You could certainly classify it as a lot more than just personal use," Kremmer said, without confirming the amount.
The aircraft, which landed without any contact with the airport’s tower controllers, is registered to a residential address in La Vernia, east of San Antonio, Texas, according to the Federal Aviation Administration registry.
The FAA and Department of Homeland Security were assisting local authorities in the investigation, Kremmer added.
Perry added that the airport reopened within “a couple of hours” of the incident and there was no serious damage to the runway or any other facilities. He confirmed that plane had the registration N523AA.
Lynn Lunsford, spokesman for the FAA, told msnbc.com: “We would investigate why the nose gear collapsed as a matter of course, but as far as other authorities are concerned it was what was in the plane that they’re interested in most.”