DUTTON – Loves ones, neighbours and witnesses recounted on Friday a seasoned local pilot's near-fatal plane crash into a construction site here, and there's a clear consensus.
John Bennetto, 67, is lucky to be alive.
It was shortly after 6 p.m. Thursday in this community, 50 kilometres southwest of London, when the small, home-built plane Bennetto was piloting alone crashed not far from the runway on his property, Happy Landings Farm. Police say it crashed into a nearby home that's under construction, and he suffered "life-altering" injuries.
"It was a perfect day for flying," Bennetto's wife, Norah, said in an interview Friday. "He's so conscientious."
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is leading the investigation, police say. Attempts to get comments from TSB officials were unsuccessful on Friday.
But neighbours and witnesses described a harrowing crash that could have been much worse – construction crews at the home were done for the day – for Bennetto and others.
“My goal was to stop the bleeding and do what’s possible to save his leg," said neighbour Phillip St-Laurent, the first person to arrive at the crash scene, moments after witnessing it. The pilot was responsive, and St-Laurent said he used two belts, including one from a neighbour's waist, to slow the heavy flow of blood coming from the pilot's legs.
Another man, Artur Sobczyk, said construction workers had earlier this week finished the floor on the under-construction home. Had it not provided a firm spot for the crash, Sobczyk wonders if the pilot would have survived.
The family says Bennetto remained in hospital Friday, with most of the injuries to his legs.
The aircraft, which police called a small Rutan Long-EZ with a single-engine piston, was made of fibre-glass, Norah Bennetto said. Her husband has been flying since 1976 and built the plane in 1989.
“Some of us get peace walking in the woods," she said. "For him, it’s being up in the sky.”
Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press