Baytown Family Recalls Ride with Life Flight One Year after Surviving Plane Crash
Gary Flynt cannot believe it’s already been a year since his family survived a horrific plane crash.
“It’s surreal,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like that much time has passed. We feel so blessed to be here today.”
On July 7, 2014, the Flynt family decided to go flying in their private plane. As they were taking off on their second flight that night, Gary, a NASA engineer and flight instructor, was at the controls when the engine quit unexpectedly. He made a quick turn to land in the open area of a nearby park, but before he could safely land the plane, high-tension power lines caught the right wing and flipped the plane over, causing it to crash in a nearby baseball field where one of the coaches called 911. Also on board that night were Gary’s wife, Linda, and youngest son, Jonathon.
Miraculously, all three family members survived the plane crash and were conscious when EMS arrived at the scene. The family was taken by Memorial Hermann Life Flight® to Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center (TMC) and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital where all of their injuries could be treated under one roof. Eight-yearold Jonathon had deep cuts on his knees and needed orthopedic surgery for his jaw. His mother was treated for a neck fracture, crushed carotid artery and intestinal damage. Gary had difficulty breathing and had dislocated his right elbow and crushed his nose and upper lip.
Life Flight Pilot Bobby Wisdom said the family plane was crumpled up when he arrived on the scene, and he feared for the worst. “I remember thinking that it would be a miracle if there was not someone dead in the plane because it was really folded up,” he said.
Linda and Jonathon were double loaded and flown to the Memorial Hermann-TMC Campus in the same Life Flight helicopter. Linda said it was comforting to be able to be with her son who was awake during the flight and knew that his mother was with him. The staff at Memorial Hermann Texas Trauma Institute was standing by when the family arrived.
“If you’re seriously injured, every minute counts,” said John Holcomb, M.D., director of the institute, and vice chair, professor and chief of the Division of Acute Care Surgery at UTHealth. “As trauma surgeons, we were ready and waiting when the patients arrived. Their injuries included broken bones, contusions and bruises all over their bodies from head to toe.”
Linda remembers how hard it was to see her son suffering with a fractured jaw and severely injured knee. “He couldn’t walk,” she said. “I couldn’t make him better. It was so hard to see.”
Alfred Mansour III, M.D., a UTHealth pediatric orthopedic surgeon affiliated with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, first met Jonathon when he was in the ICU on oxygen with monitors surrounding him. “That’s when it hit me that this is an 8-year-old child, and his parents are not with him because they are also injured, and I just wanted to hug him and tell him that everything is going to be OK,” said Dr. Mansour.
It meant the world to the family to all be able to recover together at the Memorial Hermann-TMC Campus.
“It was huge for us that our family had only one place to go,” said Linda. “I needed to see my son. People kept telling me that everything was OK, but a mother needs to see for herself that her child is going to be all right. When they rolled him over to my room, it was priceless.”
The Flynt family received so much support from the doctors and nurses immediately following the accident but still knew they had a long way to fully recover.
“You could see the struggle between the parents’ injuries and their concern for their child,” said Dr. Mansour. “Just watching the whole family and extended family, it was a beautiful display of love.”
When Linda looks back on her time at Memorial Hermann-TMC, the first thing that comes to mind is how comforting it was to have her family cared for all in the same place. “Jonathon wasn’t just in another part of the hospital, he was in a pediatric hospital all in itself, but it was right next door to mine, and I didn’t want to be anywhere else,” she said.
“I am so thankful that we had the care that we did because we now have the opportunity to enjoy each other and enjoy the rest of our lives together.”
While the family still has a few aches and pains from the accident, they are now back to their busy daily lives of shuttling kids to their sports and activities and spending time together as a family. Gary was back flying again approximately six weeks after the accident, and the family is looking forward to getting back up in the plane together soon.
“Jonathon looked amazingly active when I saw him last,” said Dr. Mansour. “He came walking in and I asked how he was doing and his dad told me he’s playing basketball and I thought ‘OK, well obviously that’s pretty good.”
Linda added that the family cannot thank the doctors and nurses enough for their extraordinary care. She feels the team went above and beyond their normal duties—one nurse even brought Linda a new lotion she had recently discovered at Bed, Bath and Beyond® because she thought Linda would enjoy it.
“I’m so thankful, not just for myself, but for my son and for my husband,” she said. “The staff at Memorial Hermann-TMC is part of my family now and I think of them often. We owe them our lives because they saved my family. You never forget something like that.”