Witnessing a car crash is a fairly traumatic ordeal, but witnessing a plane crash is on a whole other level. But how would you handle a situation where both were happening at once? John Meffert, not only witnessed it, but experienced it first hand.
Meffert was driving on the Interstate when he noticed that an airplane was flying suspiciously low. The small Cessna was losing altitude rapidly, but what Meffert didn't know what the pilot had no control of the aircraft. At the time, the pilot was radioing the airport tower, “297 mayday! We got mayday! I lost my right engine!”
When he looked up again, Meffert realized that the plane was not correcting its trajectory. “My second glimpse is, ‘I think this plane’s going to hit me,'” Meffert said. “And my third glimpse it is across the front of me, hitting me. All I see is maybe like a white flash.”
The plane crashed into the pavement, skidding over the hood of Meffert's car, and burst into flames. While he was shocked, he wasn't injured. And because he was actually a captain of the Avalon Fire Department, he knew how to handle an emergency. “I felt like I needed to go see if everyone was okay.”
While most other people would turn and run, Meffert stepped up and knew that he had to help...
He started rushing towards the burning aircraft, and when he saw figured inside moving he knew he had to hurry. "I saw the passenger,” he said. “Her head pops up on the passenger side just enough that I’m like, ‘there’s somebody alive.’ So I ran even faster and then I came from the tail section of the plane toward the passenger front.”
He was able to help pull the woman out of the plane and get her to safety but there was another man in the plane. “His butt was on the passenger seat and his legs were on the pilot side,” Meffert said. “I just came underneath his arms and said, ‘I am going to get you out of the plane.’ And I lifted him up and out.”
Meffert was able to drag both passengers out of the burning airplane and to safety. “Both of them were pretty bloody,” Meffert said. “I was really amazed that there weren’t, like, more injuries to them.”
The pilot, Frank Pisano, had six broken bones in his back. His wife, Janan, had broken bones in her back as well. Frank Pisano is relieved that Meffert was able to save both of their lives. “He saved my life and my wife’s life because I know she would have stayed trying to help me,” Frank said. “John was a hero. He went into a burning plane to save us,”
Meffert knows that everyone is lucky to be alive. The whole situation could have ended a lot differently if there were just a few changes. “I play all the ‘what ifs’ — going slower, going faster — it could have been a different turnout,” Meffert said. “We just had a lot of angels. So I feel very blessed that I was safe and able to render care to them.”