11/02/2011 04:25 EDT | Updated 01/02/2012 05:12 EST

B.C. Plane Crash Hero Shawn Nagurny Entered Burning Plane To Rescue Passengers


A Chilliwack man who rushed from his office to rescue survivors in last week's plane crash in Richmond, B.C., said he didn't think about what he was doing when he stepped into a burning plane.

Shawn Nagurny was sitting at his desk when the plane went down just outside on Russ Baker Way Thursday afternoon.

"It was just the most amazing thing to see. You never expect to see something like that," he said.

"I ran out of my office into the main office area yelling 'plane crash,' and out the door I went."

Nagurny said he ran toward the crash site, and saw other people already helping to extract the injured passengers. He said a couple of people were using fire extinguishers to help fight the spreading fire.

When Nagurny got up close to the wreckage, he saw one of the passengers, walking out of the plane on his own — and people rushed to help him. Then, Nagurny rushed in himself.

"I heard some more people screaming inside the plane, and it was just … I never really thought about it. Just kept running in to help out," he said.

A cramped, confusing 'disaster'

Inside the small cabin, it was a mess, he said. Even the seats were broken off.

"It was a disaster inside the plane," he said.

Nagurny said he and a couple of other men worked together to get a woman out — the last passenger still inside.

"We ended up pulling out the last lady before flames literally engulfed the plane. It was seconds after we got her out and dragged her to the centre meridian."

"It was so surreal to me to be sitting there even after — even after the foam truck from YVR came and doused the flames," he said.

The passengers were safe, but the plane burned with the pilot and co-pilot still inside.

"The length of time that the pilot and co-pilot were in there... [to see] the pilot, when they finally got him out, and I'm assuming he had passed ... to see him alive was just amazing."

Nagurny's voice was still gravelly on Wednesday when he told his story to the CBC.

"Breathing in all the … fuel and the smoke in the plane has irritated my lungs," he said.

Nagurny had a good drive home to Chilliwack that night, thinking that everyone was alive. He said he tried to call Richmond RCMP and Vancouver General Hospital to see how everyone was faring, but neither organization would release information due to privacy regulations. As it turns out, the pilot, 44-year-old Luc Fortin, died that night.

"It hit me the next morning ... to find out that the pilot had passed," Nagurny said.

Another rescuer, Jeremy Kerr, said he had felt guilt that the pilot died. The small band of rescuers had decided not to go back into the burning aircraft to try to get the pilots because firefighters had just arrived and started soaking the airplane in foam. The fire crew took another 20 minutes to free the pilots, who were trapped by the damage to the front of the plane.

Nagurny is still suffering lung irritation from breathing in fuel fumes and smoke. He said he is still emotional when he thinks about the crash and the victims, many of whom are still suffering.

"It's hard not to tear up every time you hear something new about it," Nagurny said.

"It was really devastating."