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Plane-Wrecked Casper City Councilman Bruce Knell Discusses 3,700-Foot Fall From Sky

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

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.  

New Plane  

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.

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Casper City Councilman Bruce Knell And Wife In Plane Accident In Utah

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Casper City councilman Bruce Knell's plane.
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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

A Casper City Councilman and his wife Stacy were injured Thursday when the airplane they were flying in crashed near St. George, Utah.

“I was in a plane crash,” Bruce Knell told Cowboy State Daily from St. George Regional Hospital on Friday. “In fact, I’m in the hospital now.”   

Knell cut the call short to undergo treatment for his injuries.   

A later text to his phone requesting follow-up was answered by a message stating “He is currently in surgery,” and that he would be out of surgery and in recovery later that day.   

Emergency personnel in Washington City, near St. George, were alerted Thursday to the crash of a small four-seat airplane carrying a man and woman, Washington City Police Chief Jason Williams confirmed in a phone interview.  

Upon discovery of the wreckage, the man reported lacerations and back pain; the woman reported arm and face lacerations with a possible broken jaw.  

Williams noted that the male in the plane was believed “possibly, to have a broken back due to the crash.”  

They were both conscious, but the pilot was unable to give details on the crash, said William.  

“According to what we were told by other airport personnel,” said Williams, “it looked like the plane had lost power, but we haven’t been able to confirm that, and we don’t have those specific details.”

The man and woman were initially taken to St. George Hospital, but Knell’s wife since has been transported to University Medical Center in Las Vegas due to the severity of her injuries.  

The plane crashed in what Williams called a “pretty barren” field about one mile southeast of St. George Regional Airport. The crash did not damage any residential property.

The Federal Aviation Administration is the investigative agency over the case.  

Casper City manager J. Carter Napier on Thursday expressed “sincere wishes” for the Knells’ “sustained health and recovery,” in a public statement confirming both husband and wife are hospitalized with “serious injuries.”  

Investigators were still on scene Friday, according to the Washington City Police Department.   

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