A plane crashed and caught fire on Sunday in East Hampton shortly after takeoff. This lead to a dramatic rescue by four locals who responded to the crash site before paramedics and police arrived. A couple from Massachusetts were in the plane, when it went down. They were on their way home. During takeoff the aircraft lost power and crashed hard in the woods, causing an explosion and a fire.
But complete diaster was averted thanks to the heroic efforts of Craig Schum, a bread baker from Brooklyn who is working for the summer at Levain Bakery in Wainscott, and was one of the first people to respond to the scene of the crash; Mike Norbeck, the manager of Sound Aircraft Services; Dean Foster, a local pilot from Sagaponack; and Jack Gleeson, a 17-year-old at East Hampton High School who is getting his pilots license, both the pilot and the female passenger in the crash is alive today.
The crash took place the same day as a protest at the airport was going on. People were demonstrating in responses to too much noise coming from planes and helicopters landing at the airport in the summertime.
Craig Schum described the crash while sitting with a group of reporters outside of the bakery he works at in Wainscott. “I was leaving work and was in my boss’s Jeep that she was kind enough to let me borrow, and I saw protestors at the airport and that looked interesting to me, so I pulled over to see what the protestors were all about. Then after about a minute or two, I hear this huge explosion in the woods and was like ‘whoa!’ The next thing I know I’m running towards the plane. I wasn’t really thinking about it, I was barefoot and there was a big fence in the way. Everybody is making a big deal out of this fence, but I just climbed over it and jumped over. I guess it was about 12 feet high. When I got to the plane, the whole engine was in flames. The pilot stepped out of the plane and was in complete shock and totally covered in blood. He was cut up all over the place, and then I approached the passenger side and there was a woman completely unconscious half hanging out of the plane. I went in and got her and then carried her out of the plane. Then a few other guys showed up and helped me carry her. So we carried her towards the fence and one of them showed me how you could pull the fence open and crawl underneath it. So we did that and got both of them underneath the fence. At this point, we all thought that she was dead and I was just holding her and talking to her and telling her that everything was going to be okay. We then heard all the sirens and the paramedics showed up and they took over, and then I made a statement to the police.”
Sag Harbor resident Bill Kirrane was one of the protesters, and he recalled seeing a Good Samaritan go through the fence to help. “He was covered in blood, and at first we thought it was his, but it was the passengers’,” Kirrane said, according to NBC New York. “That guy was a real hero.”
Mike Norbeck remembers watching the plane go down before he scrambled out to help. “I was standing in front of the terminal waiting for some passengers to arrive and I noticed that a plane wasn’t gaining altitude and there was little to no engine noise. The plane started to bank left and continued to bank left even more, lost altitude and then crashed into the woods across the street. I immediately grabbed my radio, yelled out to call 911 and jumped into my car and used the airport perimeter road to get towards the plane.
When I got to the woods I jumped over the fence and ran towards the plane. I thought for sure that nobody would be able to survive a crash like that but I saw the male passenger was standing under his own power by the time I got there and was in a complete daze. He seemed to have no idea what was going on. Jack, Dean, myself and the baker guy Craig started to carry her towards the deer fence. We lifted up the deer fence so that the paramedics could have access to her and the police then arrived in a couple of seconds. She didn’t realize that she was in a plane accident when she came around, but when the paramedics got oxygen to her, she started to complain about her arm, but she seemed stable. It was a real bad crash. When we got up to the plane I really wasn’t expecting the pilot or the passenger to be alive.”
The entire experience drew a lot of attention to Craig Schum, who was surrounded by reporters from Channel 7 News, the New York Post, the New York Daily News and “Channel Four News Monday Morning.” Schum said while sitting on a bench outside the bakery in Wainscott discussing that all of the clichés that they say about life are true when you see this kind of thing happen. “Everything that they say about human contact and connection is true. The whole experience really has solidified that with me, just that human-to-human connection really is incredible.”
As he told his story, a woman congratulated him, calling him very brave. Schum responded humbly, “It wasn’t intentional bravery, I just ran through the woods and helped carry a girl, that’s it. Enjoy your cookies.”