A commuter plane flying from Georgia to Mississippi crashed in a hay field and cracked open Monday, killing the pilot and two others and injuring 26, many of whom fled the wreckage with their clothes on fire.
“I thought I was going to die and I was just hoping it was going to end real quick,” a passenger, Chuck Pfisterer, told Atlanta television station WSB.
“And the next thing I knew, after sustaining bumps and bruises, I opened my eyes and saw that, hey, I’m alive, and the plane is in pieces and I’m hanging by my seat belt.”
The Atlantic Southeast Airlines turboprop went down around midday about five miles from Carrollton, breaking into three large pieces as it plowed across the green field.
The pilot had radioed that he was having engine problems, and may have been trying to land at West Georgia Regional Airport, six to eight miles from the crash site, said Christy Williams, a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman.
But a passenger, Air Force Maj. Chuck LeMay, told WSB that, after passengers heard a “loud bang,” they were told the plane would try to return to Atlanta for an emergency landing.
Polona Jeter, who lives nearby, said she saw the front of the plane “rolling and tumbling and on fire” as the aircraft came apart.
“I could see about 10 people getting out,” she said. “Some were burning. They were running. People were trying to get them down and get it out.”
One injured man arrived on her front porch and used the phone to leave a message for his wife in Maine. “His clothes were burned off. His undershorts were all that was left,” she said. “The skin just rolled off his body.”
The 26 survivors were all hospitalized. At least 10 were in critical condition with burns.