Kenneth Leo Wyatt, 48, was surprised and overwhelmed when Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke presented him with a special plaque Tuesday at the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration.
Wyatt risked his life to save his neighbors and two pilots during a plane crash that occurred in Compton on April 12.
Wyatt, with his wife, Helen, and his stepdaughter looking on proudly, accepted the commendation, thanking Burke for the honor. Wyatt thanked members of the Compton fire and sheriffs who responded quickly to the scene, and also received commendations from Burke.
Wyatt and his wife, Helen, were relaxing in their bedroom watching television when they heard a thunderous crash that shook the house.
Wyatt dashed out into his back yard through the debris and smoke. A twin-engine Cessna 310 aircraft that had been returning from Hawthorne Airport had crashed in his backyard. One of the wings had crashed upside down in the roof of his neighbor’s house.
The pilot of the plane had been attempting to land at the Compton/Woodley Airport a half mile away, but had experienced mechanical difficulties. The plane had crashed just before 4 p.m. in the 500 block of West Cypress Street.
“It sounded like a locomotive had hit the house,” recalls Wyatt.
“I thought someone had hit the house with a car,” said Helen. “I was in a state of shock, but I called 911.”
Wyatt wasted no time attempting to pull out the pilot from the wreckage. “Then the pilot told me that there was another passenger in the wreckage,” said Wyatt, who returned to save the second man and dragged both of them into his front yard. Both men were critically injured in the plane crash.
“They were all bloody, but they were alive,” recalls Helen.
Kenneth said that while he was rescuing the men, he was fearful that the plane would blow up. “I heard this hissing sound,” he recalls. “It sounded like gas. I thought the next thing I would hear was this big boom.”
Both Kenneth and Helen were concerned about their neighbor, who had been standing in the kitchen when the wing of the plane crashed into her home.
Wyatt said he saw a young woman–the daughter of one of the neighbors. “She said that her mother was still in the house,” Kenneth recalls., who said that he and other emergency personnel returned inside the house to rescue the mother.
He and two other people tried to open the door of the badly damaged house but the door wouldn’t budge. They helped the young woman out the window.
She said that her mother was still inside the house,” said Wyatt. Wyatt and others climbed through the window to search for her and pulled her outside.
Another resident of the house was trapped under the rubble. Several people assisted in moving the man out of the house through the sliding glass door.
Fire, sheriffs, and paramedics arrived and quickly assisted in the rescue.
“What I did was a natural reaction and a love for my neighbor next door,” said Kenneth during the ceremony. “I would do it for anybody in this room and I would do it again. I want to give a special thanks to the sheriffs and fire department for everything they did.”
Wyatt said that this was the second time that he had rescued someone hurt in a plane crash. “About 20 years ago, a plane hit a telephone pole and me and my friend pulled the victim out of the wreckage.”