TUCSON, AZ — A 60-year-old Tucson man died Saturday morning when the radio-controlled plane he was operating near the Pima County Fairgrounds crashed into his chest, authorities said.

Roger Wallace was flying the 6 1/2-pound plane with the Southern Arizona Modelers, a radio-controlled airplane group he'd been involved with for three years, said Jerry Knebel, the club president.

Wallace's desire for a safe hobby attracted him to the club.

"This was not a common thing. This was just the freakiest of freak accidents that could possibly happen," Knebel said.

Wallace was pronounced dead at the scene of the 9:30 a.m. accident, near South Houghton and East Dawn roads, said Deputy Nicole Feldt, a Pima County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman.

It appeared the sunlight caused Wallace to lose sight of his airplane, which had a wingspan of about 5 feet, Knebel said.

Rural/Metro Fire District Battalion Chief John Walka said some of the other club members tried to help Wallace, who was unconscious when paramedics arrived.

Knebel said he was looking away when the plane struck Wallace but saw him fall to the ground. He got a blanket out of his car and tried to help him until paramedics arrived about 30 minutes later.

"No one can believe this," Knebel said. "We can't believe it ourselves, and we've been doing this the past 30 years."

Wallace, who was married, owned his own auto parts store but sold it several years ago, Knebel said. He was working for the new owners and contemplating retirement, Knebel said.

Ironically, Knebel said, it was Wallace's desire for a safe hobby that attracted him to the club. He'd been drag-racing cars at the nearby drag strip when he spotted the airplane enthusiasts and asked if he could join them, Knebel said.

"He talked so often about how the flying was safer than the drag strip," Knebel said. "He came over because he thought our sport was the safer sport."

Knebel said the club goes to great lengths to ensure the safety of its members. The club always has one member acting as the safety officer when members fly, and everything is done in accordance with Academy of Model Aeronautics' safety guidelines.

"We pride ourselves on not having any accidents at all," he said. "We haven't had one in many, many years."

[Thanks to Tim Woody for this contribution.]