Whenever we step foot on an airplane, many of us think about the possibility that it might crash. Even though death by a car crash is far more likely, plane travel is still just foreign enough that it can seem scarier and more plausible.
Thankfully plane crashes are relatively rare, though that makes instances like this one even more terrifying and doesn’t really help those who already have a fear of flying.
James Wagner, a 64-year-old flight instructor, was taking 33-year-old Tim Sheehy out for training. They didn’t make it far from the Gilbert Airport in Winter Haven, Florida, before encountering a problem that ended with the plane crashing into a house.
Tragically, Wagner died on impact. Somehow, the plane did not go up in flames, giving Sheehy time to scramble out of the wreck.
The family who owned the house was home during the accident. The mother was in the bathroom, two kids were in the house and more kids were playing outside.
One child, a 17-year-old named Carmelle Ngalamulume, was in the room the plane crashed into, and she was trapped in the wall by the accident. No one could free her.
“We gotta get everybody out of the house,” a man, probably Sheehy, called into 911, according to ABC News. “We crashed into a house! One lady is severely injured, still moving … She’s stuck in the wall!”
“As tragic as this was for Mr. Wagner — and it was tragic — it was a blessing today that we didn’t have an entire family wiped out,” Grady Judd, Polk County Sheriff, said during a media conference.
“The officers ran into the house immediately,” Charlie Bird, the Winter Haven Director of Public Safety, added.
“They were made aware that the female was pinned in the back bedroom. They were unable to get to her.”
“The firefighters then immediately went into the house and found her. She was basically folded up into a wall and they were able to extract her from the wall and get her out … eventually out the window from the front of the house.”
“Like the sheriff said, this was miraculous.”
While some sources suggested that the pilot pair was going to simulate engine failure as part of the student pilot’s training, it’s not clear what exactly went wrong. Wagner had over 40 years of experience and was revered as a very accomplished pilot, so this incident is still a puzzle. Our thoughts and prayers are with Wagner’s family during this difficult time.
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