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Published: Sunday, 1/21/2007

2 women recall their narrow air escape

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The Cessna Corsair that carried Dena Nachtrab and Jaimie Supinski-Nachtrab flipped during a landing at Harbor Springs Airport in Michigan. The women and the pilot escaped from the burning plane. The Cessna Corsair that carried Dena Nachtrab and Jaimie Supinski-Nachtrab flipped during a landing at Harbor Springs Airport in Michigan. The women and the pilot escaped from the burning plane.
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Jaimie Supinski-Nachtrab can hardly even count the many times she has flown on an airplane. Yet the West Toledoan admits that taking to the air in a tube of metal has always made her nervous.

Be it on a jumbo jet, a commuter flight, or a small Cessna plane - the size of the aircraft doesn't matter - it is the sheer act of flying that sets her on edge.

"I hate to fly," she says.

So for Ms. Supinski-Nachtrab, 30, the fiery crash landing she experienced nine days ago was like living through a nightmare.

About an hour after she and her sister-in-law, Dena Nachtrab, 34, had left Toledo Express Airport in a private plane "to spend a girls' weekend with our mother-in-law" in Bay Harbor, Mich., both women found themselves trapped inside a flipped airplane that was burning on a runway.

Dena Nachtrab and Jaimie Supinski-Nachtrab. Dena Nachtrab and Jaimie Supinski-Nachtrab.
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"It got to the point where I just thought, 'We're not going to make it out of here,'•" Ms. Supinski-Nachtrab recalled yesterday in an interview from her house in the Old West End.

"I figured [the plane] was going to blow up."

Along with pilot Thomas Corwin of Perrysburg, the women left Toledo in the twin-engine Cessna Corsair turboprop shortly after 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 12 for the approximately 320 mile trip to the small Harbor Springs Airport near Bay Harbor.

They remember the flight as smooth and uneventful - until the final 30 seconds of the landing.

"The back end started going back and forth, and it started getting very bumpy," said Ms. Supinski-Nachtrab Jaimie, to which Ms. Nachtrab, a Sylvania mother of three, added, "I'm used to a little turbulence, but I knew this was something more than just a little turbulence."

Moments later some part of the plane that wasn't the wheels hit the runway, and the women said they began to scream.

"I looked out my window and I saw the wing break off," Ms. Supinski-Nachtrab said. "And then we rolled over."

Ms. Nachtrab blacked out during the impact, still strapped in her seat belt as the plane skidded to a halt. Ms. Supinski-Nachtrab had gotten out of her seat, but because the plane was upside down, she had trouble finding the release for Ms. Nachtrab's seat belt or the craft's exit door.

She remembers seeing flames through the windows erupting outside on both sides of the airplane.

"I was trying to tell Dena that the plane was on fire, and that you have to wake up because I can't find your seat belt," Ms. Supinski-Nachtrab recalled.

It was at that point, as Ms. Supinski-Nachtrab feared their lives would end in a fireball, that Mr. Corwin crawled from the cockpit and managed to open the plane's exit door and pull Ms. Nachtrab from her seat.

Ms. Nachtrab remembers regaining consciousness as Mr. Corwin carried her into the frigid air, and the three them started to run from the burning wreckage.

They barely made it out in time. Just 20 seconds later, "the plane just totally burst into flames," Ms. Nachtrab said.

Ms. Nachtrab, who suffered a head gash, and Mr. Corwin, who received facial injuries, were taken to the hospital and later released.

Both women credit Mr. Corwin with saving their lives.

Pete Wallin, the local sheriff, said the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the cause of the crash, and that everyone on board was fortunate to survive.

"It's a miracle," he said.

Ms. Supinski-Nachtrab's friend Patti Travis recalls a conversation she had with her before the flight in which she tried to calm Ms. Supinski-Nachtrab's anxieties.

"She said, 'Did you see that plane crash in California?,' and I said, 'It's not going to happen to you.'•"

However, Ms. Travis wound up hearing from her friend much sooner than she expected.

"She called me at 9 o'clock at night and said 'Guess what? Our plane crashed,'•" Ms. Travis recalled. "She said, 'I had to call you because you said it wouldn't happen.'•"

Anyone could be forgiven for renouncing airplanes after such an ordeal, particularly someone who is anxious about flying.

Yet after giving things some thought, Ms. Supinski-Nachtrab said she has decided to go ahead with a planned trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, and is set to depart on a commercial flight tomorrow from Toledo Express Airport.

As she explained to family: "I don't want to be stuck in Toledo for the rest of my life."

With that, Ms. Travis has offered her friend some different travel advice.

"I told her, 'You have to call me when you land this time,'•" she said.

Contact JC Reindl at: jreindl@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.



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