Cessna makes a crash landing over reservist's home
By Megan Just, 452nd AMW Public Affairs
/ Published August 04, 2009
MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CALIF. --
CORONA, Calif.--Master Sgt. Linda Welz's daughter and her cousin Carrie Hale, 19, had just settled down to watch a movie at Welz's home on Saturday, July 11, when a plane dropped from the sky and over the roof above their heads.
"It sounded like big rocks being thrown over the house. I thought it was an earthquake at first and my cousin thought it was a car that had crashed into the hill behind our house," Welz's daughter said.
The plane left four holes in the roof as it skipped across, barely missing the chimney After the plane slipped off the roof, it hit a tree just beyond the Welz's fence, tearing one of the wings off the body of the plane.
Miraculously, the 83 year-old pilot walked away with only cuts and bruises.
As soon as her daughter figured out what had happened she called her parents and her cousin ran outside with a video camera.
Master Sgt. Linda Welz, is the Superintendant of Headquarters Fourth Air Force Public Affairs at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, Calif. Both she and her husband were away from the house at the time of the crash.
"I was just arriving at our church for a play that I was in and I answered the phone and my husband said, 'You have to go home! A plane just hit our house!' I ran inside to tell the people that I had to leave and I ran back outside and in all the excitement, my car was locked and the keys were in it."
Welz was able to borrow a car from a friend at the church to be able to get home. She dispatched her aunt and mother to the house, knowing they were lunching nearby and could arrive more quickly.
"Before they arrived, their first thought was that it was a military plane, because of me being in the military. We had no information on anything because everything happened so quickly. Until I was able to talk to my niece, I didn't know that it was just a single engine Cessna," Welz said.
Over the phone, Welz directed her daughter to put their cats in carriers, leash the dogs and take them across the street to the park.
"She did a very, very good job, especially being as scared as she was. She got those animals and even thought enough to put some food in the cages. I was very proud of her," she said.
Master Sgt. Welz arrived at her house to find neighbors and news media out on her street, and the plane laying face up, half on the sidewalk and half in the brush.
"Things can happen so quickly that you just have to be thankful for every moment that you have because you never know when you're not going to have it anymore," Welz said. "Material things can be replaced but those that you love and care for can't. I thank God that he took care of my kids and that there was no tragedy that day."
By the time Welz arrived, the pilot had already been cut out of the plane and taken to the hospital.
"My neighbors pulled him out and he was able to walk across the street with help. He just sat down and waited for the ambulance," she said.
Welz spoke with the pilot two days after the crash. "He said he lost power and he did everything he could to avoid hitting our house but he just had no more lift," she said.
The plane crash isn't the first time the Welz family has had a close call at their home. While watering plants in the backyard last year, Master Sgt. Welz discovered a five-foot rattlesnake inches from her hand.
They've also discovered three poisonous scorpions near the house. Wildfire is a third concern.
"Because we live in an extreme high fire area, we decided that with all these things that have happened in less than a year, we need to be prepared to leave immediately should there be a fire and that we should practice that drill. It's definitely something we need to do A.S.A.P. since we're in the fire season now."
One week after the crash, Welz's daughter is still nervous in some parts of her house, the kitchen in particular, which is located below the largest hole in the roof. She and her husband have been more aware of planes flying overhead
The family also ponders a coincidental chain of events that could have resulted in a much graver outcome.
"We have a spa in our backyard and all winter long it had been drained and I had just filled it and put the chemicals in it and got it all adjusted and got the temperature up and took the cover off if it," Master Sgt. Welz said. "I told the girls before I left, 'you can go in the spa today.' The spa sits right under the portion of the roof that the plane bounced off of and the roof tiles shot out with such force that they put holes in the vinyl fence at the back of the house. A bunch of them shot right into the spa and you can feel the damage all along the fiberglass. The spa is just covered with roof tiles and grit and sand. Had the girls been in there, they would have been hurt."
The family wasn't allowed to sleep in their house that night because the investigators still needed to collect data and ensure the safety of the site.
"I was able to make it back to our church later for act two of the play. The show must go on!" Welz joked.
The Welz's insurance company was out at the house starting clean-up the day of the crash. The rest of the repairs will be made after the required estimates, inspections, and permits have been completed. The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration will also complete an investigation to determine if the crash was caused by mechanical error, pilot error, or a combination of both.
Carrie Hale's footage of the crash can be found on You-Tube by searching for "plane crash 7-11-09."