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Last updated on Thursday, April 12, 2012
(IUKA, Miss.) - Two people with Brown County ties were involved in a plane crash in Mississippi Tuesday.
Tishomingo County Sheriff Glenn Whitlock says 61-year-old Gary Huett and 33-year-old Seth Rainwater were flying from New Orleans to Indianapolis and had to ditch their plane into the backyard of a home off Mississippi Highway 25.
Rainwater said he and Huett started searching for a place to make an emergency landing.
The pair spotted an open field just big enough to land, but it was surrounded by trees. Huett started to make his descent and Rainwater took out his tablet to record what happened next.
In the audio, Huett can be heard saying over his radio, "Yeah, I can read you, but I'm going in now. This is gonna be tight."
A few moments later, he started yelling, "Open the door! Open the door!" and then the plane crashed and wound up in the yard of a home off Mississippi Highway 25.
"The wings got torn off the airplane and it bounced along for another 150 feet or so, maybe 200 feet and up into someone's yard and came to rest," said Huett.
The last thing Seth Rainwater remembers before stepping out of the sheared-off plane was a blur of trees, coming at him at about 45 miles per hour.
"And they were big trees," he said Wednesday from his hospital bed near Tupelo, Miss., "so I wasn't sure what was going to happen. I was just like, 'Well, Lord, take care of me.' And I blacked out for about three minutes."
Both men walked away from the crush. Rainwater is still hospitalized, but was doing okay. The pair said they are thankful to be alive.
Emergency responders found Rainwater, 33, of Morgantown, sitting on a bench, a little disoriented from a blow to his head, which damaged his sinus cavity.
But Huett, 61, walked away from the crash with nothing but a sore side and shoulder, from hanging sideways in his seat belt in the battered, wingless plane.
"I just went back to the site today and I looked at the trees and I thought, amazing we got through there as it was," said Huett. "We serve a very big God. Both of us are Christian men who walk with God and we feel He treated us very graciously."
According to the preliminary investigation, the Tishomingo County Sheriff's department believes Huett hit a couple of trees in order to knock the plane's wings off. Authorities believe the decision to knock off the wings could have prevented the plane from hitting the home.
Rainwater said he opened the door to make it easier to exit the plane in case the engine caught fire during landing.
Huett, a forensic animator for court cases, and Rainwater, owner of Carpe Diem photography/videography, were traveling on business, Huett said.
Huett had rented the plane, owned by Siherb Aviation Corp. in Franklin, from Franklin Flying Field on Monday.
He said the fuel gauges for both tanks were faulty.
Federal Aviation Administration officials are investigating the crash, said FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen.
"One tank sort of went dry and started sputtering, and we switched to the other, and headed for an airport," Huett recounted from the hospital Wednesday. "And about three or four minutes later, the other tank went dry, and we were about 4 miles from the airport and we had to put it down in a field.
"And down here in Mississippi, it's not like Indiana ... where you have a lot of wide open fields. You got trees all over the place, so it was a very short field."
He had to come in steep to miss a tall tree in his way and got the wheels on the ground, but the field ended before the plane stopped. "The field ended in a bunch of trees," he said. "We hit the trees at probably 50, 60 miles per hour, tore the wings off, fuselage went through a bunch of trees probably, oh, 150 feet of trees, and then came to rest up about 50 feet from a house."
Huett didn't lose consciousness, he said. He watched the trees whiz by.
"I was surprised I didn't even put my head down. I don't know why. I just rode it out."
He said he has flown for 18 years, and hadn't come close to any landing like this.
"You just deal with it," he said, about what was going through his head when he discovered they were out of fuel. "Called mayday and told them where I was, and looked for a field."
"God was really with us, to get through that," Huett said, "because the way the fuselage ... is, if it had hit head-on one of those trees, it would have been a much worse situation. But it didn't."
Rainwater's wife, Jamie, and his older brother, Joe, drove down to Mississippi Tuesday night. After his CT scan results are received, he expects to start for home as early as Thursday afternoon - but this time in a car.
The experience hasn't shaken Rainwater's faith in flying, through, or in his pilot, who "did a wonderful job in a bad situation."
"Absolutely," Rainwater said, about his chances of getting back in a plane. "I mean, you can't fall off your bike and not get back on, right?"
Contributing to this story were Sara Clifford, Brown County Democrat, with Joseph S. Pete, Daily Journal (Johnson County)
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