Bruce Knell doesn’t remember falling 3,700 feet in seven seconds, but he remembers hitting the ground.
The Casper City Councilman and his wife Stacy were flying on Thursday from Casper to St. George, Utah for a golf tournament, when Knell’s six-seater Lancair plane lost power over a field one mile from the St. George Regional Airport.
“I remember losing power,” Knell told Cowboy State Daily from his bed in St. George Regional Hospital. He said he couldn’t recall the exact sensation of his rapid fall. The plane “just literally fell out of the sky.”
“I did everything I could to keep it upright and try to glide it as much as I could, which is probably what saved us,” said Knell, adding that he also believed divine intervention had been in play. “I think it goes a little deeper than that, if you believe like I do.”
An agent from the National Transportation Safety Board told Knell on Saturday that “he’s never seen anything like this – and someone walk away from it.”
Knell’s strongest memory was of the impact, which was “really hard.”
Although he and his wife were both conscious when emergency personnel responded, he could not recall interacting with first responders on scene. The pair were rushed to the hospital, where Knell is being fitted for a custom back brace. His back, he said, is broken in four places; his sternum is broken, and the inside of his mouth is “cut up pretty bad.”
Knell already had fusions in his back and had undergone back surgery in Casper last October. The “major hardware implantation” in from last autumn is now preventing doctors from operating on his back again, he said, but “they are going to put it in a brace for now.”
“It doesn’t help when you fall out of the sky in a plane and you already have back issues,” he said, adding that his current pain level is “nothing like I’ve ever felt.”
The exact cause of the power outage and subsequent crash are unknown but under investigation, Knell said.
The Federal Aviation Administration arrived on scene to investigate Friday, according to the Washington City Police Department
‘Prayers for My Wife’
But Knell’s wife is in worse shape than he is, he said. He hoped the community would pray for her.
Stacy Knell was transported to a Las Vegas hospital for care and is suffering from at least four breaks in her back, facial lacerations, and brain bleeding.
Knell said his wife on Saturday morning had reported a “pretty rough night, not knowing where she was or why she was there,” due to the brain bleeding. He was insistent upon finishing his treatments and being cleared from the Utah hospital as soon as possible so that he could be with her.
Stacy Knell underwent a six-hour back surgery Friday, he said.
Knell said he’s been flying under a private license since about 2010 or 2011. The orange and white plane that went down on Thursday was a new purchase which he bought in December. It had a “brand new” factory-built motor in it and had performed well on previous flights.
“I’ve flown it from Austin, Texas, to Casper, and flew around Casper quite a bit,” said Knell. “When we flew it down here, the flight here was awesome – until a mile from landing.”
The couple had planned to attend a golf tournament in St. George and then fly from there to New Orleans for Stacy Knell’s daughter’s wedding next weekend.
“So we’ll be missing that,” he said.
Knell has just begun his second year in Casper City Council.