Family’s dog dies, man & woman have burns following small plane crash in St. Augustine

Rescuers reached through fire to pull pilot from wreckage

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Relatives on Friday revealed that the man and woman who were aboard a small plane that crashed in a wooded area of St. Augustine are married, and tragically, their dog died from its injuries sustained in the crash.

The crash happened after the plane struggled to gain elevation during takeoff Thursday from Northeast Florida Regional Airport.

Relatives said both the man and woman are being treated at a burn unit. We’re told the woman, who was the passenger, has burns to her feet, while the pilot is being treated for burns to 45% of his body.

Luke Bolen, who was taking video of the rescue attempt by St. Johns County deputies and good Samaritans, joined the effort after the woman got out and said her husband was still inside.

“He was already seriously injured before he encountered the flames. By the time he jumped out of the plane, he had to jump into the fire,” Bolen said. “He landed right in it. There was no other option.”

Then, he said, rescuers did something very bold in the face of raging flames.

“The sheriff’s deputy and another gentleman who was in front of me grabbed his hands by reaching through the fire and pulling him out,” Bolen said. “The four of us, each one of us had one of his limbs and were carrying him away from the plane.”

The couple’s dog was still on the plane inside a crate. Bolen said the animal was yelping as crews put water on flames to get closer to the aircraft. He said a deputy used jaws of life to pry open the plane and get the dog out.

“I’m sure the dog was severely injured as well because he was within five or six feet of the fire the whole time and it was probably five or six minutes before they could get to him,” Bolen said.

Prior to the crash, Bolen — who was in Northeast Florida on vacation from Tampa — said he saw the plane trying to take off and feared something went wrong.

“The plane came out about 30-feet high,” Bolen said. “The tail was facing down, and the nose was facing up, and it just glided across the road and collided with the forest.”

What caused the airplane to crash remains under investigation.

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