Mayor Bill Luckett of Clarksdale, a friend of the 78-year-old Oscar-winning actor, told The Associated Press that the twin-engine plane made what he described as a controlled forced landing just before nightfall Saturday at an airport in Tunica after it had taken off from another airport in his area. The cities are near each other in northwestern Mississippi, with Tunica about 40 miles southwest of Memphis, Tenn.
Freeman issued a statement saying he was heading to Texas from Mississippi aboard his plane 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 afterward. "I appreciate the concern and prayers for our safety."
Kathleen Bergen, a spokeswoman with the Federal Aviation Administration, identified the plane as an Emivest SJ-30 aircraft and said the plane reported a "mechanical problem" after taking off from Fletcher Field in Lyon, a community just outside Clarksdale.
An FAA statement emailed by Bergen said the plane's original destination was Sugar Land near Houston, but that the aircraft diverted to the Tunica Municipal Airport in Mississippi, where it made the emergency landing at 6:15 p.m. local time Saturday. She confirmed its main landing gear had collapsed and that the plane went off the side of the runway after landing.
The Clarksdale mayor said another plane subsequently went to Tunica to pick up the actor, who has a home in Mississippi.
Randy Stewart, the chief deputy in the Tunica County Sheriff's Office, confirmed there were no injuries, that Freeman was not piloting the craft and that an inspector would check the plane Sunday.