Wednesday, February 9, 2011

LDS Missionary Cameron Johnson Helps Pull Crash Victims From Wrecked Plane In San Bernardino Despite Leaking Fuel And Downed Power Lines

A missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is being credited with possibly saving a man's life in San Bernardino, California. Elder Cameron Johnson pulled Lonny Wayne Rollins from a plane that went down in San Bernardino, California on February 7th, 2010. The primary media stories identifying Elder Johnson as a rescuer are published by the Redlands Daily Facts and KSL Channel 5; other media stories providing other information include the San Bernardino Sun and KSBY Channel 6 (San Luis Obispo). This post combines and summarizes the highlights of all listed media stories.

The Beechcraft Baron BE55, enroute from San Luis Obispo and piloted by Lonny Wayne Rollins and carrying one passenger, Greg Fitzgerald, developed landing gear trouble upon approach to San Bernardino Airport. It started going sideways as the pilot attempted to miss telephone lines, then it dived into a canopy at RV Storage USA on Tippecanoe Avenue north of San Bernardino Avenue about one mile southwest of the airport, damaging about 12 storage units on the north end of the property. Elder Johnson was among a group of four missionaries who witnessed the mishap. KSL news video embedded below:

Video Courtesy of

Elder Johnson immediately took action. While two other unidentified men pulled the unconscious Fitzgerald from the plane's cockpit, Elder Johnson jumped over the fence, reached the downed aircraft, and initially kept Rollins, who was bleeding heavily from above his left eye, talking and conscious. But with leaking fuel all around the some downed power lines, Johnson realized a fire could break out any time. So he pulled Rollins out of the plane.

Emergency responders arrived in time to prevent fire from breaking out. And it's the firefighters who are calling Elder Johnson a hero. Jason Serrano, spokesman for the San Bernardino Fire Department, said that if the wrecked plane had caught fire and Johnson hadn't been there to pull out Rollins, Rollins could have died. Serrano also noted that Elder Johnson deliberately put himself in harm's way to accomplish the rescue. Elder Johnson himself disagrees with Serrano's characterization of him as a hero; he was quick to remind people that two other men followed him over the fence to help Rollins and Fitzgerald. "I think more credit actually goes to them," he said. "I helped pull Lonny out, but I think they did most of the work. I think they did most of the saving, to be honest."

Elder Johnson, who hails from Aloha, Oregon, has 19 months remaining on his mission. He and the three other missionaries with him are part of a contingent of 200 missionaries operating locally in what is called the "Inland Empire" (the San Bernardino-Riverside metroplex 50 miles east of Los Angeles) out of the California San Bernardino Mission.

As for the crash victims, Rollins was listed in serious condition and Fitzgerald's status was upgraded to fair condition on Tuesday February 8th.

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