DICKSON, Tenn. – A Dickson County father spoke out for the first time about the plane crash that almost killed him and his family, and said they are all lucky to be alive.
Dan Smith, his wife Sharon, their 19-year-old son Andy, and his 17-year-old girlfriend Katey Hargrove were all on board when the plane went down in Helena, Alabama, about 20 miles south of Birmingham. The family was on the way back to Dickson after vacationing in Panama City, Florida.
Dan, an experienced pilot, said the plane started experiencing engine trouble, and he was forced to make an emergency landing.
“I just kept getting that nagging feeling the engine wasn’t right,” said Dan Smith.
The plane hit a tree, flipped, and crashed. All the passengers were seriously injured and trapped inside.
“I looked down and thought, I don’t know if I can do this, because I only had one arm that worked” said Dan Smith. “My second thought was this story won’t end with Sharon burning in a plane.”
Dan Smith, with the help of witnesses helped ensure all of his family members escaped the burning wreckage.
“I was determined nobody was dying today, nobody,” said Dan Smith.
The Smiths and Hargrove were hospitalized at UAB in Birmingham. All experienced injuries ranging from broken bones, to fractured vertebrae to contusions. However, all are expected to make a full recovery.
Dan Smith is a Green Beret and has served five tours in Iraq.
“I’ve been wounded several times in combat,” said Dan Smith. “The pain you have to block it out. You can do that to a certain extent.”
Hargrove is recovering at home. It will still be several weeks until she is back at school. Dr. Danny Weeks, Director of Dickson County Schools, said counselors have been available to students at Dickson County High School. He said the school district is coordinating homebound services for Hargrove so she can keep up with school work.
Sharon Smith remains hospitalized at UAB in stable condition.
The FAA continues to investigate the cause of the crash.