Thursday, August 30, 2012
LONG ISLAND, N.Y. -- For Craig Schum, the barefoot baker who helped pull an Assonet couple from the fiery wreckage of a downed airplane on Long Island, N.Y., life has taken a surreal turn.
"It's bizarre, because I'm not the story," he said when reached by phone at Levain Bakery in Wainscott, N.Y. "I'm just the guy that ran through the woods. The plane crash is the story. The two people who survived are the story."
Schum, 33, said he is somewhat uncomfortable with the attention he's gotten since helping to save Assonet residents Steven Bochter and Kim Brillo, who crashed Sunday shortly after taking off from Long Island to return to Taunton Airport. Bochter, the pilot and owner of the plane, also owns Swansea Auto Center.
Schum hopes to eventually meet them.
"I desperately want to give her a hug and make sure she's OK," he said. "There's this connection there. I want to hear them say firsthand, 'Hey, we lived. It's OK.' There's some sort of closure there."
The New York man was on his way home from a day of work at the bakery Sunday when he stopped to check out a protest against the noise levels at East Hampton Airport. The next thing he remembers is seeing a small airplane crash into the nearby woods.
"You could hear all the trees crashing down, then a giant boom or explosion kind of thing," Schum recalled. "I ran toward the crash."
Describing himself as a surfer who prefers to go barefoot whenever possible, Schum had already taken his shoes off on his way home from work. He dashed toward the wreckage in his unshod feet, scaling a deer fence along the way.
"There's really nothing I recall, except I had to jump over a fence," he said. "I remember thinking it was a stupid idea to jump."
When he got to the crash site, Schum said, the front end of the plane was in flames.
"The pilot was wandering around dazed and covered in blood," he said. "Kim was unconscious outside the plane, but her legs were still in the plane. She was bloody, covered with cuts. I was pretty sure she was dead."
As he started pulling Brillo from the wreckage, another man arrived to help, Schum said.
"The two of us carried her toward the road, where the paramedics showed up," he said. "We got them back under the fence. I held her hand and was trying to get her to regain consciousness I was holding her hand, looking into her face and talking to her when she started moving her head. At that moment I knew she was alive."
Schum, an avid surfer and skateboarder, said he never thought about his own safety during the incident. He said he acted on instinct and compared his actions to the mindset he brings into his pastimes.
"When you're surfing or skating, you do a lot of dumb stuff," he said. "You just don't think about it. You just do it."
Being called a hero, he said, is uncomfortable.
"It's not false modesty," he said. "I'm very proud of what I did. The heroism thing, all that stuff is uncomfortable because I wasn't thinking about it. I just did it. I didn't choose to do it."
Since helping rescue Bochter and Brillo, Schum has found himself in the spotlight, giving interviews and posing for pictures in the bakery.
"I just had my picture taken with some bikini team that came in" he said.
Since Schum recently broke his cell phone while skateboarding, press outlets have been calling the bakery to arrange interviews. The attention has made him the subject of some good-natured ribbing from his co-workers.
"I still have to process what happened," he said. "Now I have this whole second event to process."