Lifestyle & Human Interest

Samaritan Watches Plane Crash and Burst Into Flames, Risks Life To Save Pilot Before Explosion


Thomas Hunnicutt, 34, has been credited with saving the life of an airplane pilot after a single-engine plane crash-landed in Phoenix back in June.

Hunnicutt was able to successfully pull the pilot, Mark Brandenmuehl, out of the plane before it exploded.

“He clipped a light pole. It spun him right into the barrier,” Hunnicutt told KPHO/KTVK in a June interview.

“It sounded like a bomb going off. It hit, flew up, twisted on its top, and spun a couple times and then landed.”

Hunnicutt had a split second to decide to race into the inferno to extract the pilot, who was still buckled into the plane.

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“At that moment, my wife called 911, and I jumped out of the car,” Hunnicutt said.

“I saw everyone just videotaping, and if everyone would’ve kept videotaping, that man would’ve burnt up in that plane and died right there.”

Moments after Hunnicutt pulled Brandenmuehl to safety, the plane exploded.

Hunnicutt said the dramatic scene unfolded “like it was a movie,” and he knew the pilot’s injuries were critical.

Brandenmuehl suffered second- and third-degree burns on his body and spent five months fighting for his life. Sadly, he passed away on Oct. 20, according to his obituary.

His wife, Jenny Brandenmuehl, had the opportunity to meet Hunnicutt and thank him for rescuing her husband. Because of Hunnicutt’s brave actions, Jenny got to spend an extra five months with her spouse of 31 years.

“The entire plane was on fire except for the tail,” Jenny Brandenmuehl told KPHO/KTVK. “He reached in and grabbed Mark out a window. Mark was in a fetal position and he pulled him out. We owe him Mark’s life for the time we had.”

“I had the gift of having no words unsaid,” she added. “Mark and I, we got to say we love each other, got to kiss each other, and I got to hug him in his hospital bed.”

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Hunnicutt received a gift from doctors at the Arizona Burn Center Valleywise Health campus, where Brandenmuehl was treated for his injuries.

Doctors gave Hunnicutt a clock, symbolizing the extra time that Brandenmuehl was able to live, thanks to the good Samaritan who saved his life.

“At the end of the day, it was a life,” Hunnicutt said. “I just wanted to show some sympathy and help somebody out when they needed to be helped; that’s it.”

“Put the phone down and help, that’s all I can say,” Hunnicutt added. “Put your phone down and help.”

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A graduate of Grand Canyon University, Kim Davis has been writing for The Western Journal since 2015, focusing on lifestyle stories.
Kim Davis began writing for The Western Journal in 2015. Her primary topics cover family, faith, and women. She has experience as a copy editor for the online publication Thoughtful Women. Kim worked as an arts administrator for The Phoenix Symphony, writing music education curriculum and leading community engagement programs throughout the region. She holds a degree in music education from Grand Canyon University with a minor in eating tacos.
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Lifestyle & Human Interest