Montana Girl Co-Piloting a Plane Recalls Crash

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) – Feb. 4, 2012, is a day imprinted on the mind of 18-year-old Kayla Seaman.

That’s the day she walked away with minor injuries from a plane crash in south Kalispell – a crash where the plane she had been co-piloting flipped upside-down and plowed into a house.

She describes it as a “bad roller coaster” ride, but it won’t deter her from flying again or pursuing her pilot’s license.

She has a scar on the back of her scalp where three surgical staples recently were removed, plus photos to remind her of the close call.

Seaman grew up flying, as did her dad, Mike, who piloted the small plane that day. Seaman, a senior at Flathead High School, took an aviation class her sophomore year and took every chance to practice flying with her dad.

Her father taught her the importance of using caution and surveying emergency landing routes, quizzing her about places to land when they were up in the air.

“He’s always like, ‘You’ll never know when your engine is going to give out. No matter where you’re flying, know the best place to land,'” Seaman said.

That preparation came in handy that Saturday when the plane had to make a forced landing on Ruddy Duck Drive.

Seaman was co-piloting with her father that day. Also on the plane were another passenger and two dogs – an English springer spaniel and a poodle.

After fueling up, they left Kalispell City Airport on their way to a family wedding in the Chinook/Havre area.

According to a preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report, the plane experienced partial loss of engine power shortly after takeoff.

At between 300 and 500 feet, Seaman said she heard a sputtering noise.

“We were about to make our turnaround and it sputtered once and my dad said, ‘Let go,’ so I put my hands down” from the flight yoke, Seaman said.

She remembered the plane making two or three more sputtering noises and then descending.

“It just happened so quickly. I remember looking at my dad, he had his game face on. He was so determined, he didn’t say a word. When I looked down all I saw were roofs. My dad was fighting to keep it flying.”

The plane shuddered around them.

“I don’t know how to explain it exactly,” Seaman said. “It was like a really bad roller coaster.”

And then Seaman remembered a short-lived sense of relief as an empty road came into view.

“Just as we were going down, my dad saw a lamppost, which would have been bad to hit. We went just to the left of it, hit three trees that flipped us over right before we hit the white truck that broke our windshields,” Seaman said.

The thought of hitting a house didn’t have time to sink in before her head hit the ground and she was knocked unconscious.

“I remember looking at the white Ford truck’s grille and I don’t remember anything after that,” Seaman said.

She doesn’t know how long her head made contact with the sidewalk or road before the plane crashed through a window in the lower level of a house.

Seaman said she soon regained consciousness and realized what had happened.

“My dad was yelling, ‘Are you awake, are you alive?’ I said really quietly, ‘Yeah, I’m fine.’ I didn’t want to freak him out. I looked down and saw a pool of blood,” Seaman said.

Seaman was unable to remove her seat belt right away and the plane, crumpled around her, made it difficult to move. Her dad had gotten out of the plane and was digging away debris to reach her. She heard the homeowner asking if they were all right.

Eventually, her dad grabbed her jacket and helped her crawl out of the wreckage into the house.

The other passenger and dogs were helped out by other people.

The group ran upstairs and then outside to avoid a possible explosion after her dad smelled fuel.

Outside, looking at the wreckage, Seaman said she was too shocked and scared to cry.

“There were a lot of people standing around, some were crying. The police roped off the area and an ambulance came,” Seaman said.

They decided to pick up her car at the hangar and drive to the hospital, where she only spent a few hours being treated before she was released.

Seaman’s mother, Mary Graham, was in Bozeman when she got a phone call from her daughter.

“She called me and said ‘Don’t be mad.’ That’s what she said. ‘Don’t be mad,'” Graham said.

“I just figured she borrowed my car or something. I said, ‘What am I going to be mad about?’ She said, ‘We just got in a plane crash.’ I fell to my knees and started crying. I was amazed. The plane didn’t explode, didn’t catch on fire. They survived the impact.”

Graham had her brother visit Seaman in the hospital to confirm she was OK. He was sent back a photo of Seaman in the hospital giving the thumbs-up.

When the flight rewinds itself in her mind, Seaman thinks there were worse things that could have happened:

“If we wouldn’t have flipped over, the house could have decapitated us. If we didn’t hit the truck we would have been going faster. If we didn’t hit the window we would have hit the boards of the house.”

All three people on board the plane and the dogs survived with minor injuries. The English springer spaniel had some stitches for cuts on his paws after stepping on glass when exiting the plane.

“Everyone was buckled up,” Seaman said. “I can’t imagine how different it would have been if I didn’t buckle up.”

Not one to miss school, Seaman decided to attend the following Monday, two days after the crash. She realizes now she should have spent more time recovering. Some teachers and classmates didn’t know she was in a crash. During an English class students were reading a poem that had an unexpected effect on her:

“The first two lines had ‘airplane,’ ‘engine’ and ‘stopped.’ I started crying,” Seaman said.

Now, Seaman is back to her normal activities of horseback riding and skiing. Her mother plans to take her on a trip to Las Vegas in March, which will be the first time Seaman has been in a plane since the accident.

“I’m not scared of it,” Seaman said.

And if her dad buys another plane, she plans to fly again. Eventually, she wants to get her pilot’s license.

“Flying was one of my favorite things to do,” Seaman said. “I don’t think I’ll be afraid to go fly again.”


Information from: Daily Inter Lake,

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