CARDIFF, Calif. - There is an amazing story of survival behind a piece of a small plane that mysteriously washed ashore in Cardiff Monday.
A FOX 5 viewer saw a news report of a plane part washing ashore in Cardiff State Beach Monday and recognized the tail number. He called his buddy in Houston, Texas – the man who was flying the plane went it crashed August 23, 2010.
Court Koenning was flying the single-engine Cirrus attempting a night landing at a small airport outside Houston.
“Determined I was running out of runway -- I had to go around. In the go-around process the plane was not climbing at the rate I needed it to... I started to hear trees hitting the bottom of the airplane, then a big loud ‘bang’ -- the wing impacting a tree that ripped it off," said the pilot with 20 years flying experience.
Koenning says he deployed the plane’s parachute about 150 feet off the ground.
“As I deployed it I yelled out ‘God, please save me!’ Blacked out… don’t remember the fall, impact. Next thing I know I’m laying on the ground with neighbors tending to me. I literally landed in somebody’s backyard," Koenning said.
He spent about three weeks in the hospital. It was a long, painful recovery that included more than a dozen surgeries.
“I had massive cranial, facial injuries. My face is nine plates and 36 screws," he said.
Koenning says what was left of the plane was taken to a junkyard and he has a theory how the piece ended up in Cardiff.
"It's just speculation. It was shipped, maybe from a port in San Diego, to somewhere on the other side of the world and for some reason, fell off the ship.”
The Houston resident hired a North County towing company to haul off the plane piece and store it until he can find a way to get it to Texas.
“Gosh, I should have laid claim to it when I saw it in the junkyard years ago. That time I just wanted to get away from that reminder. Now, I want to hold onto those things -- a learning tool of what you’ve been through.”