TUNICA, Miss. (AP) — A private plane carrying actor Morgan Freeman and his pilot blew a tire while taking off Saturday from a Mississippi airport and had to make an emergency landing, authorities said. No one was hurt.
Mayor Bill Luckett of Clarksdale, a longtime friend of the 78-year-old Oscar-winning actor, told The Associated Press that the aircraft made what he described as a controlled forced landing just before dark Saturday at an airport in Tunica after it had taken off from Clarksdale.
Both cities are near each other in northwestern Mississippi, with Tunica about 40 miles southwest of Memphis, Tennessee, and one sheriff's official said the plane went off the runway after landing.
Freeman issued a statement saying he was heading to Texas from Mississippi aboard his plane Saturday to shoot a segment for the series, "The Story of God."
"Sometimes things don't go as planned and a tire blew on takeoff, which caused other problems," Freeman said in the statement sent by his publicist. "But thanks to my excellent pilot Jimmy Hobson we landed safely without a scratch."
"I cannot say the same about my plane," Freeman added in the statement, which didn't elaborate on the condition of the aircraft after the unexpected landing. "I appreciate the concern and prayers for our safety."
Luckett identified Freeman's plane as an SJ30, which the SyberJet Aircraft company describes on its website as a light business jet. The Clarksdale mayor said another plane went to Tunica to pick up the actor, who was originally bound for Houston. Freeman has a home in Mississippi.
Randy Stewart, the chief deputy in the Tunica County Sheriff's Office, told the AP that the plane made an emergency landing and went off the runway. Stewart confirmed there were no injuries, that Freeman was not piloting the craft and that an inspector would check on the plane Sunday.
Kathleen Bergen, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, didn't immediately return emails from the AP about the incident.
Freeman was involved in a 2008 car accident that seriously injured the actor and a passenger in Mississippi on a rural highway near his home. No charges were filed and Freeman settled a lawsuit in 2009 that was filed by the passenger.
Freeman is known for his roles in "The Shawshank Redemption," ''Driving Miss Daisy," ''Seven," and "Invictus." He has been nominated for five Academy Awards and won a best supporting actor Oscar for his role in Clint Eastwood's 2004 film "Million Dollar Baby."
Associated Press writer Emily Wagster contributed to this report from Jackson, Mississippi.