LANGLEY — It started out as a flying lesson like any other but turned into something very different.
Arianna Marshall, a 17-year-old South Whidbey student, had just taken her first lesson from Fred Lundahl in his 1975 Cessna 150 Aerobat on Oct. 11 when she witnessed a plane crash. She didn’t hesitate to help.
Marshall was recognized with the Mayor’s Excellence Award at the Langley City Council meeting on Nov. 4 for her quick and calm response to the emergency.
On the day of the crash, Marshall was walking back along the airstrip at Whidbey Airpark, returning to her car parked at a friend’s house.
“I saw this billowing black smoke and I thought, ‘That doesn’t look good,’ ” Marshall recalled.
A small silver plane she had seen take off not 10 minutes earlier had landed in the brush toward the end of the airstrip. The passenger, local man and pilot Rick Foxworthy, had crashed as a result of his home-built plane losing power.
Marshall sprinted toward the scene of the accident, which wasn’t a completely new experience for her. Last year, she was the first to respond to a car crash on Saratoga Road, helping the driver out of his car and calling 911 for help.
She was prepared to do the same for Foxworthy, who had escaped the plane before it caught fire. But when she pulled out her phone, the battery was nearly dead.
In the span of a few minutes, Marshall weighed her options. After a brief encounter with Foxworthy to ensure he was conscious, she decided to run back to her friend’s house for help. She had also texted Lundahl to alert him. Around this time, airport owners Sky and Tara Rudolph arrived at the crash and made the call.
After Foxworthy was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center, Marshall gave the report to police officers and firefighters, who extinguished the fire.
Foxworthy has since been released from the hospital and is recovering at home. According to the police report, he sustained head and arm injuries. Lundahl, a close friend of Foxworthy, said it’s fortunate his injuries were limited to cracked bones.
“He was one lucky camper,” Lundahl said. “Arianna was very important in calming him down and not letting him go back into the burning plane to get his radio and fire extinguisher.”
Marshall’s knack for being in the right place at the right time continues to surprise her.
“I’m lucky, I’m really lucky,” Marshall said. “I don’t know why this stuff happens to me.”
One would think seeing a plane crash would be enough to deter her from approaching a plane for quite some time. On the contrary, Marshall said she didn’t associate the crash with flying, and she’s even planning to go skydiving this spring while touring colleges on the East Coast.
“I would definitely go back on a little plane,” she said. “If I felt like I really wanted to go flying again, I wouldn’t be hesitant.”
This story originally appeared in the South Whidbey Record, a sibling paper to The Herald.