SANTEE, Calif. — Two days after a plane plummeted from the sky and crashed into a Santee neighborhood, a newlywed couple stood near the wreckage of their recently purchased home and tried to make sense of the tragic past 48 hours.
When the twin-engine Cessna crashed near the intersection of Greencastle and Jeremy streets Monday afternoon, it killed the doctor piloting the aircraft and a UPS driver whose truck was hit. The plane also destroyed two family homes — for newcomers Cody and Courtney Campbell, it was a house they’d only just settled into.
“Your mind goes through all the different things, all the ‘What if?’-s, all the other scenarios that could have happened and we’re just super grateful that, you know, that’s not the case, and that we are standing here today,” Courtney told FOX 5 Wednesday.
“We were both at work. We just got a bunch of phone calls, a bunch of text messages — immediately came home from work as quickly as we could,” Cody said.
They found their single-story home decimated. The crash had left little standing as firefighters worked to contain flames.
The lot stood fenced off Wednesday as transportation officials wrapped up their on-scene investigation, leaving reeling neighbors and news vans dotting the suburb. Facing a daunting rebuild, the couple was quick to mention others affected by the crash, especially the pair that lost their lives.
“Can’t imagine for Steve, the UPS driver, and the pilot … any of their loved ones, the feelings that they’re going through right now,” Courtney said. The Campbells added that they’re keeping a close eye on the recovery of neighbors Phil and Maria Morris, who suffered burns when their home was also hit. The couple is expected to recover, though they lost a beloved family dog and most of their possessions, loved ones said.
Cody and Courtney said they’re touched by the selflessness and care they’ve received from neighbors, starting with their heroism in the moments after the plane hit. Residents rushed to help the Morrises out of a back window in the moments after the plane went down — a harrowing rescue that was caught on video.
The Campbells later learned that neighbors desperately rushed toward their burning home, too, fearing they needed rescue. A close friend of Cody’s lives up the street and was able to ward them away, confirming the pair was at work.
Another testament to the tight-knit neighborhood: Delivery driver Steve Krueger was on a first-name basis with neighbors up and down the block.
“With us kind of being new to the neighborhood, we didn’t really know the UPS driver as well as everybody else did, but everybody says that they knew Steve from his routes and that he was here all the time, so obviously our hearts, our thoughts go out to his family,” Cody told FOX 5.
Neighbors planned a candlelight vigil near the crash site to honor Krueger Thursday.
Though they’d only moved into their new home in May — the same month they got married — Cody and Courtney have roots in Santee, each growing up and going to high school there. They said it didn’t surprise them to see the community rally around all those affected by the crash.
Two GoFundMe accounts, one for Courtney and Cody and one for the Morrises, are helping raise money for the families. As of Wednesday afternoon, contributors had donated $37,000 to help the young couple.
Even with that aid, it’s a long road ahead to re-route the life the Campbells are building together.
“We’re still trying to figure that out. Still trying to process everything that happened,” Courtney said. “I don’t know that there’s a book that kind of tells you, from point ‘A’ to ‘Z’ what that looks like. But we’re hoping with the support of our friends and family and coworkers and community that we can figure that out.”