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'A plane just crashed into our backyard!': South Carolina students say pilot steered clear of home

Charles Grondines told NBC News that his roommate observed the plane crash and witnessed the pilot, in foggy conditions, avoid their home at the last minute.
Image: Crews work at the scene of a plane crash in Columbia, S.C.
Crews work at the scene of a plane crash in Columbia, S.C., on Jan. 13, 2020.Columbia Fire Department

A college student in South Carolina said he and his roommates are counting their blessings in the moments after small plane narrowly missed their house and crashed into their backyard on Wednesday morning.

Charles Grondines, a 21-year-old student at the University of South Carolina, said his roommate witnessed the plane flying directly toward their Columbia home in dense fog before making what looked an evasive maneuver.

"He's coming straight at us and then he turns last second and his wing clipped the roof of the house across from the street from us and then he kind of spun out into our back yard," Grondines continued.

"We hear this big rumble," he said. "There was no explosion initially, and my roommate who was actually outside, runs inside and said, 'A plane just crashed into our back yard!'"

"We didn't know what to do," Grondines said. Since they had not seen any fire, they decided to go back outside and help.

"And then it exploded," Grondines said. "If that second explosion had happened a little later it could have been really bad."

The students, four of whom live together, believe he flew to avoid crashing into their home just south of the Publix grocery store on Rosewood Avenue.

"I'm sure that guy has passed, but if his intention was to land where it wouldn't affect anyone else, he did a great job," Grondines said. "It's definitely tragic what happened, but we are definitely counting our blessings."

The Columbia Fire Department tweeted photos of an extensive response operation around downed tree limbs.

The coroner's department is involved but the Fire Department did not comment on the occupant of the plane.

"The crash did cause one home to catch on fire," the department tweeted. "The occupant of the home did suffer a minor injury unrelated to the crash. The fire is now out."

Shelby Beckler, also a USC student who lives nearby, said small planes like this are common at Columbia's Jim Hamilton - L. B. Owens Airport.