Last Wednesday, a small Mesa County Sheriff's Office plane collided midair with another small Cessna just outside of Whitewater. Now, a sheriff's deputy who was on board that plane is speaking about her experience.
Deputy Lisa McCammon says now that she's had time to absorb what happened, she's doing "just fine." Looking at pictures of her plane and the one they collided with, she says she's just glad to be here.
McCammon says last Wednesday started out like any other day. She and her pilot, Andy Gordon, were at the airport getting ready to take two inmates to the Colorado Department of Corrections. After a normal takeoff, she says she was just sitting back and relaxing.
As the plane flew near Whitewater, she says she could see low, heavy clouds forming over the Mesa.
"I kind of looked out at the clouds and I was like, wow -- it's going to be a rough flight over the Mesa," said McCammon.
At the time she didn't realize just how right she would be. Moments later, she says she and the others on board felt a huge jolt.
"[Andy] made the comment that he thought we'd just hit a bird," said McCammon.
And she says the plane dropped in elevation.
"Once we were flying around and I knew that there were actual problems with the plane, I was like, this could be it," said McCammon.
McCammon says in the moments following the impact, they still had no clue what had happened -- but Gordon made the decision to turn the plane around.
As they made their way back to Grand Junction Regional Airport, McCammon says she learned they were going in with no nose gear.
"That was the scary part," said McCammon. "How do we land with no nose gear?"
Fortunately, she says, Gordon was able to get them down without too many problems. But it wasn't until they were close to landing that she learned another plane flying in the same area as them went down, after it too had hit something. She later found out both men on board that plane also made it out okay.
Looking back on the experience, she says someone was definitely watching over both planes that day.
"I'm just so thankful it turned out the way it did," said McCammon. "It could've been a huge tragedy. We're very lucky and I'm very, very grateful."
After all is said and done, she says she wouldn't think twice about getting back on a commercial flight -- but it may be awhile before she climbs back onto a Cessna.
"I don't want to be afraid to fly," said McCammon. "It was a complete freak thing."
The Mesa County Sheriff's Office says it is currently getting estimates on damage to the plane and debating whether or not it would be cost effective to get it fixed. In the meantime, officials say the Sheriff's Office can still transport prisoners by vehicle, commercial flight, contracted transport, and in some cases by renting a plane.
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