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Passenger recounts lucky landing on Manresa State Beach

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Calif. (KION-TV) -- On Saturday, a plane landed on Manresa State Beach in Santa Cruz County. Monday, KION spoke with Elsa Swanson, a passenger on that plane, where she recounted her experience.

"I thought we were going to die," said Elsa, "I was texting my parents thinking like do I need to say my last ‘I love you’s to you guys."

Elsa had boughten her boyfriend flying lessons, and they took from Salinas Municipal Airport with their instructor. The plane had been checked before taking off, and there were no signs of trouble until they were in the air.

"All of a sudden, the pilot just said ‘hold on,’ and the engine died and everything inside the plane just shut off," said Swanson. "We were like are we going to be okay? and he was like, ‘I don’t know yet. Let me figure this out.”

They tried to make an emergency landing at Watsonville Municipal Airport, but the plane wasn't going to make it that far. They decided Manresa State Beach was the safest option.

“So he tries to restart the plane, and it’s not working, the propellors are starting to go, then they stop again, So then he contacts the Watsonville Airport, and he's on the headphones with them, and they’re trying to get him to land at the Watsonville Airport, but we weren’t at a high enough elevation to make it that far, so from there they were like we’re either going to have to do a freeway landing or a beach landing.  the Watsonville airport directed us on how to get to the beach.”

"I just started thinking like were we going to nosedive down or were we going to land in trees, and I was thinking just how is it possible that he’s going to land this plane safely. And then we went through clouds, and it was so hazy in the clouds, you couldn't see anything. Then all of a sudden, we pop out, and we’re like 500 feet above just open ocean. Thankfully the pilot just yanked the steering over and directed us over to the beach, and then that's where we landed.”

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board were notified of the incident.

“I just felt the biggest sense of relief, and I was shaking so bad, my hands were just completely shaking, and when we landed, me, my boyfriend, and the pilot, we all just hugged each other. We were just really grateful that everything worked out okay and that everyone was safe.” 

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Calista Silva

Chief Photographer for KION News Channel 5/46 and Telemundo 23

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