PCHS alum honored for heroic rescue after airplane crash
Adam Kelley was at a stoplight in West Jordan on Aug. 10 when he saw an airplane that had just taken off from South Valley Regional Airport.
It banked to the left, the landing gear was redeployed even as the airplane was taking off, Kelley recalls. He watched as the plane stopped in the air and fell straight toward the ground. It was perhaps 100 feet off the ground when it started to fall, he said.
Kelley, a 29-year-old West Jordan resident who grew up in Park City, graduating from Park City High School in 2004, did not see the airplane hit the ground as a building blocked his view. He called 911 to report the crash.
He drove to the crash site, arriving three minutes later, and saw smoke coming from the engine. Kelley rushed to the plane in a rescue attempt. Another man got there quickly as well with the same motivation to help.
"I jumped out of my truck and headed over to the plane to get the occupants out," Kelley said.
Three people were inside — two women and one man. Kelley introduced himself, unbuckled the seatbelt of one of the woman, pulled her out of the airplane and dragged her to safety. He returned to the assist the other woman, also dragging her to safety. He then helped the other man get the pilot out. The passengers suffered a range of serious injuries. A fire caused by the crash by then was spreading toward the cabin.
"As soon as we got him out, the plane went up in flames," Kelley said.
Kelley, a staff sergeant and leadership instructor in the Utah National Guard, on Saturday was honored for his actions in West Jordan. Gen. Frank Grass, the chief of the National Guard, presented Kelley with the Soldier’s Medal at Camp Williams. The medal is given to members of the armed forces who display heroism outside of a conflict, according to the Army National Guard.
In a statement released by the Utah National Guard, Grass praised Kelley’s actions in West Jordan in August.
"Thank you (to Kelley family) for raising an outstanding young gentleman that became a soldier that has served his nation overseas as well as responded in the homeland when he saw a situation and he saw somebody needed help. It really starts at home. It starts as a little child instilling those values — dedication, commitment, and community which come from our families," the Grass statement said.
The people in the plane are from Boise, Idaho. Kelley traveled to Boise just before Thanksgiving, saying the meeting was "really emotional."
Kelley during his career with the Utah National Guard has served in Iraq, New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and on the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona. Kelley in 2010 received a Purple Heart for injuries he suffered in the spring of 2008 when a roadside bomb exploded outside his armored truck during a supply mission in Iraq.
"Service, to me, is putting something bigger than yourself in perspective, knowing there’s always a bigger cause for things," Kelley said.
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