Fiery, Fatal Plane Crash Vivid in Mind of Scarred Survivor 10 Years Later

MORRILTON, AR - A fatal plane crash 10 years ago this month is still very vivid in the minds of those that did survive.

The crash killed 72-year-old Morgan Hetrick. He is considered a hero for keeping the plane from nose-diving and saving the lives of three young students.

That student is also called a hero for that day that left him with deep burn scars covering more than 60 percent of his body.

"I remember the heat," Brandon Herring said. "I can feel the heat still 10 years later."

The memory of the accident is burned into his mind. The scars covering more than half of his body: a constant reminder.

"I don't think I'll ever be able to forget any of it." 

July 14, 2004 in Conway County a plane carrying 3 student pilots including 16-year-old Brandon in the back seat and 72-year-old veteran pilot Morgan Hetrick crashed just after a failed takeoff. 

"We hit a power line and a tree," Brandon explained.

The impact knocked the wing off. Hetrick took control from the student pilot and kept it from nose diving. The survivors afterward say those actions kept them from all dying.

"I was freaking out in the back seat. I didn't know what was going to happen," Brandon remembered. "I was 16. I was like I'm never to see my parents again and never gonna see my friends again. And he was just up there doing what he could, to the best he could all the way to the ground."

But the plane landed in a pool of its own burning fuel.

Brandon was the most burned but as it was reported in 2004, the teen went back in the plane to pull his flight instructor out. 

"[I] Turn around and I could see Morgan still struggling with the seatbelt," Brandon added. "Of course the fire started on his side and it was coming through him to get to me."

He was able to get his instructor out of the plane but they were both severely burned.

"I looked at my hands and my skin was kind of like melting down just hanging off my hands," Brandon showed his scars. "I'm pretty sure we all thought that was going to be our last moments."

Unfortunately Morgan Hetrick died from his injuries hours later.

Brandon was still awarded by the Red Cross for his heroics.

"I miss Morgan a lot," Brandon remarked. "He was a great friend and mentor."

Brandon says he learned a great deal from that day and the months on end spent in burn units. He says it was all worth it.

"I've got full use of everything," Brandon explained. "I'm not restricted at all by my injuries that I received."

He hasn't been held back either. He's a Corporal for the Crawford County Sheriff's Office and has an Aviation Degree with a handful of licenses from Henderson State University to show for it.

"From everything that happened it's helped make me a safer pilot. I definitely treasure life more."

While he has the scars that wont let him forget, Brandon doesn't want to. The accident set the flight plan for the rest of his life and he has no plans change course.

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