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Plane crash survivor to meet rescuer after 12 years

Will Eifert Modified: August 20, 2013 at 2:45 pm •  Published: August 20, 2013

This is an update on the story of crash survivor Matt Cole. Read that story here.

After 12 years of wondering what happened to plane crash victim Matt Cole, Flagler County (Fla.) paramedic Roy Longo will get the chance to meet the man he helped to save.

Longo has been responding to medical emergencies for twenty five years. But this call has always stood out in his mind.

“I’ve remembered every single detail,” Roy says.

Longo was on shift in 2001 when his ambulance was dispatched to an airplane crash on the Seminole Woods Parkway. When the crew arrived, Roy didn’t see much that he and his partner could do.

“We thought it was going to be a pretty simple call,” Longo remembers. “It seemed like every single piece of the plane was on fire. We didn’t think that anyone would have survived.”

But as the ambulance rolled closer to the wreckage, Roy could see bystanders waving them towards the opposite end of the downed aircraft. The crew weaved their truck through the debris, and rolled alongside Matt Cole. It was a moment that Roy says he won’t forget.

“I can still see his eyes,” he says. “They were so wide, and it was like his eyes were pleading for help.”

While the ambulance crew waited on a medical helicopter to arrive, Roy worked to save the pilot’s life. He made a surgical airway to keep Cole breathing, and gave him medicine to ease the pain from burns that covered nearly all of his body.

As the crew prepared Cole for the helicopter trip to the hospital, the pilot made a request.

“I’ll remember this until the day I die,” Longo says. “He looked at me and said ‘Tell my family that I love them.’”

After the call, Roy called the hospital to check on Cole’s condition. He spoke to Cole’s father, who thanked him and let him know that though Matt had made it to the hospital, his condition was still very uncertain.

A few weeks passed, and Longo hadn’t heard anything more about whether or not the downed pilot had ended up surviving. The local newspaper ran a story on Cole’s release from the hospital, which said that Cole and his family would be leaving to go back to California.

“The article said they’d be stopping by the school where Matt worked before leaving,” Longo recalls. “I drove down there to see if I could find them, but I guess they had already left.”

Roy didn’t know if he’d ever learn the fate of the man he’d saved that day on the highway. Then, after 12 years, Longo read an article in the aviation magazine Air Facts Journal about Cole’s accident and return to the skies.

After reaching out to the publication, Longo finally got the chance to hear the same voice that had made such a haunting request years ago.

Cole says he’s planning to fly to Florida soon to meet the paramedic who kept him breathing that day in 2001.


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