WEST JORDAN — A man, his wife and his adult daughter were in critical condition after they crashed in a small plane onto a West Jordan soccer field Sunday morning.
Reports indicated the plane went down at 9:10 a.m. in a field about one mile from South Valley Regional Airport, hitting a light pole and then a berm. Two of the three people inside were taken by helicopter to a hospital, while a third person was taken by ambulance.
The family was from Boise, and all were in critical condition, officials said.
Robert Kelley, a Staff Sergeant with the Utah National Guard, said he was on his way to work when he saw the plane start to go down.
"I stopped at a red light and I noticed the plane taking off," Kelley said. "Immediately, I knew he was in trouble because he just wasn't gaining altitude."
David Lawrence, a former firefighter and emergency medical technician, also witnessed the plane crash.
"It never got any higher than 40 or 50 feet off the ground," Lawrence said. "The initial hit was pretty hard where it bounced and then it went down on its belly."
Kelley drove onto the soccer field after the plane crashed. As he approached, he saw flames rising from the engine.
"The whole time, I just was thinking, 'Got to get them away from the plane.' I fly helicopters, so I know as soon as the plane's on fire, there's a big likelihood that it can explode," he said.
Kelley began pulling the passengers out and taking them to safety, starting with the wife, who was closest to the door. When he pulled out the daughter, she stood up and then collapsed from back pain, he said.
By the time Kelley, Lawrence and one other volunteer reached the unconscious man who was piloting the aircraft, "the plane was really engulfed in flames," Kelley said.
"The pilot was the worst," Lawrence said. "He was so beat up, he was in no condition to be talking to everybody."
Kelley said he was glad to be "in the right place at the right time," and that the outcome could have been very different had he and other volunteers not been there so soon after the crash.
"They probably would have been killed," he said. "The fire would have got to them because they couldn't move. By the time the cops showed up, the whole cabin was engulfed in flames."
"I think another three or four minutes, they would have been burned," Lawrence added. "They were very fortunate that we were able to get them out before that airplane was totally engulfed."
West Jordan Police Sgt. Dan Roberts said he was grateful for the quick response of Kelley, Lawrence and others who were on the scene.
"I think it is just human nature that you see another person in need you respond. Thank heavens in this situation these people were willing to put themselves at risk," Roberts said. "Certainly with the injuries that have been described and with the fire that ensued, it is easy to say some lives were saved with the quick action of these people."
The cause of the crash was under investigation Sunday afternoon.
Contributing: Sandra Yi
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