AUSTIN (KXAN) — Out of a tragedy, three people have formed a special bond.
On the afternoon of March 14, a small plane crashed in Lakeway. A student pilot, Kevin Henderson, lost his life. His instructor, Scott Nelson, survived.
“I actually don’t remember anything except for maybe what probably was like five seconds where I just opened my eyes and saw these two guys,” Scott Nelson said. The “two guys” he’s referring to are Chris Wood and Justin LaPree.
Wood, an 18-year veteran firefighter with Lake Travis Fire Rescue, was going home from playing a round of golf. LaPree, an Austin firefighter, had just picked his son up and was on his way to pick up his daughter.
They were both driving down Lakeway Boulevard.
“I came up to a young lady standing in the middle of the street with her arms up to heaven, and she was crying.” Wood said. “I looked beside me. There was a tree shaking, and a plane had just crashed.”
LaPree said, “I just had this gut feeling that something bad happened.”
LaPree left his car running and ran over. He said, “Everything just kind of went into reaction mode. You could tell from the severity of the scene that seconds were going to make a difference in this one.”
The two off-duty firefighters jumped into action. They said they pulled Nelson and Henderson out of the wreckage and started assessing their conditions.
“[Nelson] was able to give me yes and no answers with blinks,” LaPree said.
“We were there at the right time, and I think any first responder, any firefighter would’ve done the same thing,” Wood said.
Nelson, Wood and LaPree all now wear the same cross necklace, similar to the one Nelson was wearing, which got lost in the crash aftermath.
Wood said when he visited Nelson at the hospital, “he asked about it. I said, you know, it’s gone.” He then explained, Nelson’s wife bought all three the same cross.
“So we’re going to wear the same cross for the rest of our lives,” Wood said.
The firefighters also later learned, “Scott had mentioned that they were expecting [their second child]. They hadn’t told anybody. They found out a week before the crash,” LaPree said. “Chris and I are both happy to have been able to save this father, husband and son.”
They said they wish they could’ve done more. Henderson succombed to his injuries at the hospital.
Nelson said, “It’s hard. It’s something I’m still processing. I still have a hard time processing how lucky and fortunate I am to know these guys.”
A Go Fund Me page has been created for Nelson and Henderson’s families.