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Deputy first on the scene talks about Okeechobee plane crash rescue

Three on board expected to survive
Plane crash near Okeechobee County Airport
Posted at 4:19 PM, Nov 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-25 20:11:59-05

OKEECHOBEE COUNTY, Fla. -- Deputy Richard Varnadore went back at the spot Monday where a plane had crash landed Saturday just outside the Okeechobee County Airport.

He was the first on scene.

“There was a young man laying on the wing of the plane, and an older lady laying on the ground," the deputy recalled.

A family of three from Brevard County had rented the plane from Titusville and flown to Okeechobee.

The mother, 50-year-old Dawn Sale of Mims, told investigators that as they were taking off, the motor started to cut out about 100-feet off the ground. She added her husband, 51-year-old Raymer Sale tried to turn the aircraft around but the motor then shut off, and the plane began to nosedive before crashing into the field.

“The son was yelling, ‘my father, my father he’s trapped in the plane. Please save him, please help him,' " said Deputy Varnadore.

The deputy says he bear hugged the father, and ran with him away from the plane. “Laid him on the ground and at that point I turned around and saw the plane fully engulfed in fire.”

The deputy said he was in the right place at the right time. In fact, he wasn’t even supposed to be working on Saturday.

“I was actually supposed to have been out of town this weekend. Plans went haywire at the last minute so I stayed in town and picked up a detail," said Deputy Varnadore.

That detail led him to Saturday’s rescue, and a phone call Monday to 18-year-old survivor Raymer Sale IV.

“He’s doing really well. His parents are doing really well," said Varnadore.

Like most in law enforcement, Deputy Varnadore shrugs off the “hero” label. “I feel good about it. I’m happy it was able to work out the way it did.”