The lone survivor of a plane crash is grieving the loss of her “soulmate” husband, one of two people killed when the aircraft plowed into their North Carolina home on Thursday.
Loretta Parker of Hope Mills, N.C., was in bed with Henry, her spouse of 33 years, when the tragedy occurred around 11:30 p.m., according to ABC 11. Parker had fallen asleep while watching a movie, but she said she’s not sure if Henry was also asleep at the moment of impact.
Parker said when she woke up, she felt like she was underground. But she was actually buried under a pile of debris after a small civilian airplane crashed into the back of her house, destroying it.
Both Henry and his beloved dog, Grace, lost their lives in the disaster. The plane, identified as a Beechcraft Baron, was flown by a pilot named Bill Merritt, who also died.
In Cape Fear Valley Medical Center recovering from the injuries she sustained, Parker recalled details of the nightmarish scenario.
“You don't think an airplane is going to drop right out of the sky and into your bedroom,” she told ABC 11. "At first I thought maybe I was dreaming. But it was really real, but it was really dark, and I couldn’t see any light to get out.”
Parker said she started trying to dig her way out and yell for help, but her cries just came out as a whisper. “I thought I was screaming,” she said, “but I couldn’t get my breath.”
An EMT worker, who Parker is looking forward to meeting and thanking, finally rescued her from beneath the rubble and carried her “like a baby” to the ambulance. “I was in so much shock and pain,” she said.
Parker is still reeling from losing the love of her life, who died by her side. “He is very much my soulmate, and I don't know how I'm going to make it without him," Parker said. "I'm thankful for the time I had with him. But I miss him."
She said Henry loved his sons Derek and Chance and his daughter, Chelsea, “immensely.” But she feels a measure of comfort from the idea that Grace the dog is somewhere with him.
"She was Henry's best friend and was extremely loyal to him," she said.
It’s unknown whether the crash was caused by a technical malfunction or a pilot error, but Merritt did report a “control issue” right before it happened. He had been practicing nighttime takeoff and landing, National Transportation Safety Board senior investigator Robert Gretz said, and was preparing to touch down on the runway when he sent the distress message.
One nearby neighbor told ABC 11 she’d “never heard anything that loud,” while another eyewitness recalled coming out to see that the crash “took the whole back of the house out." The couple reportedly lived in a double-wide modular home.
An investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board is underway, and a preliminary report is expected to take about 10 days. A full report could take up to a year to compile. But Parker wants answers as soon as possible.
She said whoever is responsible for the crash “robbed me raw of my soulmate, my home, my financial security. They've taken everything from me. Everything, things I can never get back."
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