Picking up the pieces: Son of injured Santee plane crash victims on what’s next for family

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SANTEE, Calif. — The scene in a Santee neighborhood was much different Tuesday as emergency crews worked to clear the damage from multiple areas of the debris field following Monday’s deadly plane crash.

cardiologist was killed when his twin-engine C340 Cessna went down at Greencastle and Jeremy streets around 12:15 p.m. A UPS driver was also killed.

Demolition teams were seen taking down the walls of the two homes that were completed gutted by fire and the burnt out UPS truck was towed away. For those whose homes were destroyed, they are picking up the pieces.  

James Slaff-Gruel’s parents were rescued as their home burned around them.

“Amazing to see strangers go up to a burning house and save somebody that they don’t know,” he said. 

Slaff-Gruel reacted to video of the rescue of his mother and stepfather from their burning home, which took a direct hit when the plane crashed in the neighborhood. Fire ensued following the impact of the crash.  

“It broke my heart to see my mom being pulled out and Phil being pulled out,” he said. “And then having to break down a fence to pull somebody out. It was very hard to watch.”

Slaff-Gruel’s parents were in the front room watching television around 12:15 p.m. His stepfather, Phil Morris, said there was no time to react before the room was fully engulfed in flames while his mother, Maria Morris, was desperate to find her beloved dog. So the two separated.  

“She was looking for their dog and he went to look for her,” Slaff-Gruel said. “He told her to get out. As soon as that happened then Michael and the ladies were pulling her out of the window and the flames got really hot, so he had to go out the back door.”

His mother and father both suffered burns to their bodies. They’ll remain at UCSD Medical Center for a while longer, but are expected to be fine.  
 
“Emotionally, she’s still trying to process it,” Slaff-Gruel said about his mother. “I think a lot of it is going to be very hard. You lose your home and your beloved pet and everything that you built your life on. It’s going to be emotionally draining.” 

The NTSB will remain on scene until its investigation into how and why this happened is complete. 

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