|Quoting TripleDelta (Reply 27):|
When all of this combines, you have a scenario for a far worse accident than when landing on a flat, clear strip of ground. Unless the ditch is flown exactly as specified by the aircraft manufacturer - which is not all that easy to do when you consider that the aircraft is likely powerless, the pilot has not been trained for water landings and that he may not be experienced - the aircraft may catch the water with, say, the nose wheel, flip over and start sinking.
I have about 750 hours in several different PA28 types flying and instructing in them. I know that aircraft type like the back of my hand.
First of all, water landings are not mentioned in any PA28 manual from Piper. You are on your own. If you do fly around water your flight instructor will give you some information about water landings, but they are only considered an item of last resort. You are always going to be safer landing on land rather than water.
The Piper Cherokee is one of the easiest to fly aircraft out there. You can manhandle it all day long and it'll always come through for you without biting you in your rear end. The only thing I found with them is that you have to be accurate with your landing speeds otherwise you'll float for awhile before touchdown. That's why I mentioned that if the pilot saw the people he could have "jumped" over them. But I don't think he saw them. For a soft field landing, you do have the nose up high. But if you are that close to the ground, your main view is out of the front windshield rather than a side window. If the people got hit with those hershey bar wings the Cherokee has they would have been severely injured. If they had been hit with a Cessna or Beechcraft wing they probably would have been cut in half.
The only way to truly know what happened is to wait for the NTSB report to come out. It could very well have been that the pilot cleared the runway and the people just happened to walk into the planes path just before touchdown.
BTW, emergency landing tip. If you are landing in a field watch out for cattle. They won't move out of the way. And cows almost always face into the wind. So always land "up cow".