RAY TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WXYZ) — Just days after a six-seater plane crashed in Ray Township, the 17-year-old who was a passenger in the aircraft is opening up about the harrowing ordeal before heading back home to Atlanta, Georgia.
“All I really remember is realizing something was wrong, and then we were crashing,” said Siena Kamal.
Siena’s uncle Ronny Kamal was piloting the plane with his wife in the seat next to him. Charlie, their six-month-old puppy, was next to Siena. They’d just fueled up and taken off when Siena — who has grown up around planes — could tell something was wrong.
“The plane started shifting a little bit and like, irregular movement … just wobbling and I knew that it wasn’t turbulence. It wasn’t really weather. So I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t really quite understand, like we’re actually about to … go down,” she said.
They were about a hundred feet in the air when Ronny, an experienced pilot, was able to carry out a controlled crash.
“If it weren’t for him, we would not be here,” she said.
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Rescuers agree Ronny made sure they didn’t nose dive, and when they hit the ground, there was an explosion. A family friend who was watching them take off called 911.
Michigan DNR conservation officer Brad Silorey was only about a mile away.
“I looked towards the end of the runway … a large black plume of smoke coming from the west end of the runway, and the smoke was coming from the treelines past the runway,” said Silorey.
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The doors of the plane were blown off during impact.
“There was glass and everything, and just like shards of shrapnel from the plane on the ground and stuff. So I just kind of crawled out and Charlie came up behind me and she just ran off,” said Siena.
Photos courtesy Kamal family
Silorey describes the scene when he arrived. “Two people were on the ground already outside … and then I started approaching the woods, and then the third … individual came out of the woods. They were still looking for their dog at that time, but they were in shock and pretty distressed,” he said.
Officer Silorey drove them to a nearby ambulance, but the frightened young golden retriever was lost in the woods after the crash.
“I was really worried about her because she’s just a puppy,” Siena said.
Thankfully, Charlie was found 13 hours later by Penny Faulk who was out delivering newspapers.
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“She came right up to the car and she was not going to let me leave without her,” said Faulk.
Siena, her uncle and aunt Chirine Njeim — a four-time Olympian — were all hospitalized for burns, cuts and broken bones. Siena, who is going into her senior year in high school, is fierce in lacrosse.
Photos courtesy Kamal family
Shoulder surgery that was scheduled for next week is now delayed as she recovers from second and third degree burns to her left arm. But she’s feeling fortunate and amazed that they all survived.
“We walked out and we’re like … ‘how are we alive right now?’ said Siena.