Pilot Tried to Warn Lauren Scruggs Before Propeller Accident: Report

Jan 17, 2012 12:50pm

The pilot who flew fashion editor Lauren Scruggs above Dallas to view Christmas lights says he tried to warn the fashion editor about the plane’s spinning propeller and thought she was safe until he heard someone cry out.

The pilot shut off the plane engine when he heard someone shout, ”Stop, stop,” and saw Scruggs’ body on the ground, according to a federal report.

In a preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Administration Monday, the pilot recounts the moments before Scruggs’ Dec. 3 accident in which she walked into the small plane’s moving propeller and lost a hand and her left eye.

The unidentified pilot, reported to be Curt Richmond of Frisco, Texas, says he extended his arm out to guide her away from the propeller, and told her to walk behind the airplane.

“Upon noticing that she was exiting in front of the strut, the pilot leaned out of his seat and placed his right hand and arm in front of her to divert her away from the front of the airplane and the propeller,” the report states. “He continued to keep his arm extended and told the passenger that she should walk behind the airplane.”

When he thought she had walked away behind the plane to safety, the pilot says he “returned to his normal seat position,” “looked to the left side of the airplane and opened his window to ask who was next to go for a ride,” according to the report.

But before another ride would take off, he heard someone shout, “Stop Stop,” the report states, and he shut down the engine immediately, only to see the 23-year-old lying in front of the small plane.

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Credit: Facebook

Scruggs lost her hand in the accident and doctors at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital removed her left eye. She has been in intensive therapy to relearn the basics, how to walk, talk, use a stationary bike, even dress herself, but had made tremendous progress, according to her mother Cheryl Scruggs’ blog. The deeply religious family met with a prosthetic arm expert last week and has emphasized prayer as Scruggs recovers.

In an interview on “Good Morning America” after the accident, Scruggs’ parents said that they believed their daughter walked back toward the plane to say a final thank you to the pilot. They did not blame the pilot, though many aviation experts took issue with the fact that the propeller was left running while a passenger was exiting the plane.
“The pilot of a bird like an Aviat Husky is going to in almost all cases shut the engine down completely and have the propeller stop, which happens almost immediately as soon as you shut it down,” ABC News Aviation Consultant John Nance explained in a Dec. 15 “GMA” report after the accident. “Because we know the danger of having a human being anywhere close to a twirling prop.”
In the NTSB report the pilot said he left the engine on “in anticipation of taking another passenger to view the holiday lights,” but turned it off immediately after he heard the screams.

Richmond has not answered ABC News’ repeated requests for an interview and has not spoken out about the accident before.

ABC News’ Ryan Owens and Kevin Dolak contributed to this report.

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