'How are we alive right now?': Michigan airplane crash survivor opens up about harrowing experience

ByKimberly Craig, WXYZ
Wednesday, July 27, 2022
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"All I really remember is realizing something was wrong, and then we were crashing," the 17-year-old said.

RAY TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Just days after a six-seater plane crashed in southeastern Michigan, the 17-year-old who was a passenger in the aircraft is opening up about the harrowing ordeal before heading back home to Atlanta, Georgia.

"All I really remember is realizing something was wrong, and then we were crashing," Siena Kamal told WXYZ.

Her uncle, Ronny Kamal, was piloting the plane with his wife in the seat next to him. Charlie, their 6-month-old puppy, was next to Siena in Ray Township, Michigan. They'd just fueled up and taken off when Siena, who has grown up around planes, could tell something was wrong.

"The plane started shifting a little bit and like, irregular movement, just wobbling, and I knew that it wasn't turbulence. It wasn't really weather. So I knew something was wrong, but I didn't really quite understand, like we're actually about to go down," she said.

They were about a hundred feet in the air when Ronny, an experienced pilot, was able to carry out a controlled crash.

"If it weren't for him, we would not be here," she said.

Rescuers agree Ronny made sure they didn't nose dive, and when they hit the ground, there was an explosion. A family friend who was watching them take off called 911.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation Officer Brad Silorey was only about a mile away.

"I looked towards the end of the runway, a large black plume of smoke coming from the west end of the runway, and the smoke was coming from the tree lines past the runway," Silorey said.

The doors of the plane were blown off during impact.

SEE MORE: Chicago couple, teen niece injured in Michigan plane crash; dog also aboard

"There was glass and everything, and just like shards of shrapnel from the plane on the ground and stuff. So I just kind of crawled out and Charlie came up behind me and she just ran off," Siena said.

Silorey describes the scene when he arrived.

"Two people were on the ground already outside, and then I started approaching the woods, and then the third individual came out of the woods. They were still looking for their dog at that time, but they were in shock and pretty distressed," he said.

Officer Silorey drove them to a nearby ambulance, but the frightened young golden retriever was lost in the woods after the crash.

"I was really worried about her because she's just a puppy," Siena said.

Thankfully, Charlie was found 13 hours later by Penny Faulk, who was out delivering newspapers.

"She came right up to the car, and she was not going to let me leave without her," said Faulk.

Siena, her uncle and Aunt Chirine Njeim, a four-time Olympian, were all hospitalized for burns, cuts and broken bones. Siena, who is going into her senior year in high school, is fierce in lacrosse.

Shoulder surgery that was scheduled for next week is now delayed as she recovers from second- and third-degree burns to her left arm. But she's feeling fortunate and amazed that they all survived.

"We walked out, and we're like 'how are we alive right now?'" said Siena.