BRYAN, TX — Luke Armstrong is the Bryan-College Station walking miracle. The lone survivor of a deadly plane crash, he has fought for his life and is on the road to recovery, but his journey began with the men and women who responded to him that Sunday afternoon.
“I was yelling to the plane, and I couldn’t get any response. Obviously I was too far away, and then I made the decision to climb the fence. So I climbed the fence and just starting running,” remembered Billie Boyd, the woman who found the plane and called 911.
For the first time since the crash, Armstrong and his family met Boyd and the Bryan firefighters who responded to Coulter Airfield on August 30.
“It was surreal. Without their work, dedication, and everything they’ve done, I wouldn’t be here today, and it's very humbling to know that deep down, these people were a part of the team that saved my life,” said Armstrong.
“It was really cool to get to see him and hang out and really just to talk to him. He seems like he has such a good attitude about everything. His road to recovery has been so long and what he’s had to go through, it’s just encouraging,” said Bryan firefighter Bryce Campbell.
While Armstrong does not remember the crash, first responders say he was still awake when they arrived on-scene.
“Pulling him out of the helicopter, getting him over to the stretcher and trying to talk to him while I was starting his IV, I would ask him what his name was, and we laugh about it now. It wasn’t funny in the moment, but we laugh about it now. I said, "Hey, what's your name?" and he said, "Luke," and I said, "What’s your last name?" and he didn’t respond at all,” said Melissa Kendrick, Air Med 12 Flight Nurse.
Wednesday morning as Luke was visiting with firefighters, they showed him the tools they used to extract him from the aircraft.
“We went down the runway, saw the plane. We knew it was going to be a prolonged extraction and it was going to be tough, so we initially brought our heavy extraction tools that we normally use on car accidents," said Campbell. "And due to the way the plane was, we quickly learned it wasn’t going to be a feasible option based on where Luke was and all the damage. So, we had to go to plan B, which ended up being a Sawzall and what we call an A-Jacks tool, which is a metal cutting tool, and we were able to just work at the side of the plane."
While the Armstrong family has been by Luke's side since his accident, his father says they wouldn’t be where they are today without everyone who responded on that Sunday afternoon.
“The team effort and that all of it had to fall into place for him to be here. The neurosurgeon said to me, "Your son was in a coma heading towards death when he hit my OR." Somewhere along the line, I picked up that he didn’t have much longer. If he hadn’t been there when he was there so all these guys had to do what they did in a timely manner for him to be here. Words can never say enough thank you, thank you is not enough,” said Bob Armstrong.
Armstrong and his family say if it wasn't for the execution from all the first responders, Luke may not have been the lone survivor.
Armstrong is back home in Dallas with his family, where he is continuing his rehab therapy on his road to recovery.