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Centerville plane crash
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Live Mic: Brothers describe why they ran toward firey Utah plane crash

Photo of small plane crash in Centerville, Utah. Photo credit: Paul Nelson/KSL NewsRadio

SALT LAKE CITY —  On June 25, 2020, Brad Berglund and his brother Lyle Berglund were driving north on Legacy Parkway just outside of Farmington, Utah, headed for a home remodeling job, when they saw it.

“Brad pointed out this plane that was coming down pretty fast,” Lyle told LiveMic host, Lee Lonsberry. “It really was descending quite rapidly, and banking hard.”

Brad and Lyle were witnessing what Centerville police described as an experimental airplane, with two people aboard. At first, Lyle said he thought it might be a duster plane like others he’d seen in that area. 

“It got closer and closer [to the ground] and eventually, there’s no return,” Brad said. “It clipped the right wing and kind of face-planted. Then lit up on fire.”

The small plane crashed into a field in Centerville near Tippets Lane, just west of Legacy Highway. One of the brothers called 911 as they stopped their car. Then both jumped out and ran toward the plane and the surrounding field, which were both on fire.

“No other option” but to help after plane crash

Almost a quarter-mile and three barbed-wire fences separated the Berglunds from their car and the site of the plane crash. 

As they got closer, both of the men admitted to each other that they didn’t think they wanted to see the scene.

“But there was no other option. We knew what we had to do.” So they ducked under the final barbed wire fence and headed toward the crash. They say they saw one man who was conscious, alive.  

Lyle says they “did their best” to get near the man. Brad saw that he still had his harness on, so they had to remove it before they could attempt a rescue. 

“As we got him onto the ground and out of the fire,” Lyle said, “we noticed the other man was breathing.” He said they knew they had to get him out.

And they did. Then they waited for help to arrive.

Injuries and introspection

Both Brad and Lyle say they suffered 2nd-degree burns and smoke inhalation as a result of the rescue. Brad has a 3rd-degree burn.

“You made a choice to run towards this burning aircraft,” Lee said to the brothers. “Why was that the choice that you made?”

“It didn’t feel a lot like a choice. It was instinct,” Lyle said.  The only decision he says he remembers consciously making was to put on his hazard lights before leaving the car and running toward the crash.

He said that his parents instilled a sense of social obligation in their children.  “If there’s a situation where somebody needs help, then it’s our obligation to help,” Lyle said.

“That’s what it came down to, instinct, and being raised with those kinds of values.”

As of Tuesday, June 30, both of the men the Berglund brothers rescued from the plane died from their injuries. The plane’s owner, 72-year-old Andrew Kostrzwea of Salt Lake, died the day of the crash. On June 25, retired Davis County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Sheriff/Paramedic and paramedic pilot for Intermountain Life Flight, Lt. Jason Sorensen, died of the injuries he sustained in the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating.