An ex-Navy SEAL and Purple Heart recipient from Montana was flying over Florida with an instructor when their aircraft lost power and crashed into a Lakeland home- and the veteran miraculously managed to cheat death a second time.
Navy veteran Timothy Sheehey was flying as a student of Air Force veteran James Wagner in the UC-1 Twin SeaBee amphibious plane when the aircraft lost flight capabilities and crashed into the roof of a mobile home on Saturday afternoon.
In the aftermath of the crash, Wagner was killed, Sheehey was injured and 17-year-old Carmelle Ngalamulume -who was in her bedroom at the time- was pinned by the aircraft.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said that it is unknown if the plane lost power due to a malfunction or simply failed to restart during a training exercise.
“Their goal today was simulated engine failure training. Now, let me underscore, we do not know at this time at the investigation whether or not they were simulating an engine failure. We do not know if this is a training exercise gone bad,” said Judd.
According to WFLA, Sheehy managed to get himself free and walk away from the crash with only minor cuts and bruises. Surveying the scene around him, the Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient removed his shirt to use as a pressure bandage for Ngalamulume’s neck injury.
Five other individuals occupying the dwelling were unharmed.
“As tragic as this was for Mr. Wagner, and it was tragic, it was a blessing today that we didn’t have an entire family wiped out,” Judd said of the crash.
Sheehy earned his Bronze Star and Purple Heart in 2012, when he saved a member of his SEAL team in Afghanistan.
An Air Force veteran and experienced pilot who had been flying since his teens, Wagner was once a pilot for Jimmy Buffett.
Wagner’s son-in-law, Luis Nunez had nothing but kind things to say.
“The man got to do what he loves for a living,” Nunez said, “and we lost him today but he passed doing what he loved, which was flying, teaching, and the hardest thing for me is I know there was a family affected with the home. I am thankful that no one else passed and that the pilot he was instructing did not pass. Honestly, knowing Jim, he would not have wanted it any other way. He would have given his life for anybody in a heartbeat. He was just the best man I have ever met.”
The crash is under investigation.
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