Columbus homeowner escapes unharmed after plane hits house
A Japanese immigrant says she feels fortunate to have escaped injury after a plane crashed into her home while she was doing laundry.
Hiroko Nakao told Eyewitness News she heard a big sound Thursday morning and fled the house where she's lived for four years. She didn't realize a plane had crashed into it and destroyed her sunroom until she called her husband from a neighbor's house.
"A small airplane into the house, right to my house. My body, I'm okay, so I'm glad for that," said homeowner Hiroko Nakao.
"I don't believe it. I think it's a joke but she's very serious, so I came home suddenly," said Nakao's husband, Tadashi.
After Hiroko left the home, she said she saw the victims who had been in the plane.
As for the next steps after the plane destroyed their home?
"I have no idea...but my body is okay so I'm glad," she said.
"I'm very lucky because she's okay. Even if the house is damaged, it's fine. We are very fortunate, I think," said her husband.
"I'm glad she's alright, I really am, 'cause it's an airplane, you know, imagine anybody's house with an airplane," Banister said.
Even before the impact, neighbors knew something was incredibly wrong.
"We just heard a loud explosion. You could see the black smoke. We did see the pilot, what they're saying is the pilot, blood on his face and pretty burned up," said witness Melissa Snyder.
"He was totally burned and injured and bleeding," added witness Roshni Patel.
The injured pilot is Gerald Clayton of Columbus. His passenger, Dennis King, was hurt in the crash, too.
Clayton served in the Air Force in the 1950s and has had his private pilot's license since 1965. He's a regular at Columbus Municipal Airport and volunteers as a docent at the Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum.
Friends there were shocked to hear that after so many years of experience in the skies, Clayton's plane had crashed.
"When I heard it was close to the airport, first thing I wanted to make sure that it's not one of our people here. But...that didn't work out," said Jim Sellars, president of the board at the Atterbury-Bakalar museum. "So we're hoping everything's gonna be okay."
Friends say Clayton was flying a plane Thursday that he built himself. They say it took him several years to build it.
"It was a kit that he built. In fact, I think him and his wife built it in their garage. The graphics on it were in honor of his grandchildren because he has five stars on the back, on the tail," Sellars explained.
Experts say that homemade aircraft, a Fixed Wing Single-Engine Glastar GS-1, has a complete motor and passed inspections before going up.
But now Clayton's friends and this neighborhood are wondering just why it went down.
"He'd never had anything like this happen before," Sellars said.
"It was a disaster. You could see flames shooting out of both sides. Scary, scary," Snyder said.