The pilot of the small plane that crashed in outside of Birmingham last Thursday is speaking about the incident for the first time Tuesday.
Dan Smith, his wife Sharon, their 18-year-old son Andy, and his girlfriend Katey Hargrove were all on board when the plane went down in Helena, Alabama, about 20 miles south of Birmingham.
The plane, a Piper PA-32, crashed after having engine trouble while en route to Dickson, their hometown, from Panama City, Florida.
“I was determined in my mind, ‘Nobody’s dying today,’” said Dan Smith.
Two witnesses ran to the scene and pulled each of the victims away from the wreckage.
“I’ve been in a lot of combat situations and this was the first time I almost, I looked down and I thought, ‘I don’t know if I can do this,’” Smith recalled.
He’s a Green Beret and has served five tours in Iraq.
“I’ve seen it over and over when you have a near death and you nearly get killed. You really appreciate life. Most people take it for granted. They get up every day and just assume it’s supposed to happen that’s not really the case. It’s very fragile it can end very quickly,” Smith said.
News 2 spoke to 17-year-old Katey Tuesday, who is now back in her Dickson home recuperating after being released from the hospital Monday.
She had to have surgery for fractured vertebrae and is now using a walker to help her get around.
Katey is expected to make a full recovery and is allowed to go back to school in about four to six weeks.
Her mother, Joyce Norman, said her daughter is strong and is thankful for what she calls a “miracle.”
Smith hopes his wife will be released from the hospital on Wednesday. She is the only one that remains hospitalized.
He added that the plane checked out fine for its pre-flight inspection. The FAA is still investigating.
- August 4, 2014: 17-year-old plane crash survivor to be released from hospital
- August 1, 2014: Witness shares account of plane crashing in backyard
- July 31, 2014: Dickson family injured in plane crash in Alabama