Former Astoria Mayor Edith Henningsgaard Miller described Saturday the last moments in her son's small plane - just before they crash-landed in the Columbia River.

Pilot Bill Henningsgaard had just begun flying her to Seattle Friday afternoon when he realized they had a problem and turned back to try to return to the Astoria Regional Airport at Warrenton.

They didn't make it.

Instead, he put his ailing plane down in the river, and they were rescued by the Columbia River Bar Pilots.

Edith Henningsgaard Miller described what happened to The Daily Astorian Saturday.

They were flying to Seattle Friday afternoon in her son's brand new plane to see her granddaughter (Bill's daughter) perform in a play.

"We had just crossed over the hills in Washington, when I said, 'I didn't notice this valley before and all these houses,'" she said she remarked to her son.

Edith said they were 5,000 feet up when "all of a sudden the engine just stopped."

"He said, 'This is an emergency,' and I didn't say anything else."

They were three-quarters of the way back to the Astoria Regional Airport in Warrenton when Bill told his mother, 'We're not going to make it" and began gliding down toward the river.

She recalled Saturday that if it been 10 minutes later they would have had to land on the ground and it would have been much different, but she was wearing a harness and said she was not hurt at all when the plane landed on the water.

Bill Henningsgaard bit his lip, which rescuers reported was bleeding, but he was otherwise uninjured.

She said her son had "been thoughtful enough" to release the air pressure on the door, or they wouldn't have been able to get out. He helped her out of her harness and they stood on the wing of the plane.

She recalled that he said he was sure there would be a boat along soon. She said they stood on the wing for what appeared to be about 10 minutes.

Edith said Bill said, "'We'll have to swim to shore.' I said, 'I don't swim.'"

At first, there was no water on her shoes. By the time the pilot boat arrived, the water was up to her ankles.

The pilot boat crew threw a life ring. Bill tied it to her harness and three crewmen pulled her into the boat.

She was wearing her "good clothes" because she was going to see her granddaughter's play. Although she was not hurt when the plane hit the water, her body was "bruised all over" from being dragged through the rigging as they pulled her aboard.

She praised her rescuers, "They were so wonderful to me."

After crews from Medix Ambulance checked them both over on the dock, she was taken to her home in Astoria. She put on dry clothing and went to bed. Her daughter, Jolee, a nurse, was there with her.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.