November 7, 2006

Recovering Survivors Recount Fatal Plane Crash: Parents of the Two Survivors Convey Their Sons’ Recollections.

By Leigh Woosley, Tulsa World, Okla.

Nov. 7--Ryan Biedron watched his friend die as they waited hours to be rescued from a pasture just outside of Hominy, where their rental plane crashed early Sunday morning.

Ryan Sageser, the 17-year-old pilot, was alive long enough to crawl from the plane, tell Biedron to call 911 and then say he wanted to go to sleep.

Ryan Sageser died in the crash along with his father, 46-year-old Mark Sageser. Mark Sageser and his wife have two other sons, according to friends of the family from Wichita, Kan.

Details of the 2003 Cessna Skyhawk crash unfolded as recollections were told by Ryan Biedron and the other survivor, his friend John Rice.

Their parents conveyed them on Monday.

The survivors, both 18 years old, are at St. John Medical Center and are expected to fully recover from their injuries.

"The plane was upside down," said Tom Rice, father of John Rice. "Now it's all upside down, just like the airplane. It's all mixed up."

Mark Sageser accompanied the three teenagers, who have been friends since middle school, to a Ben Folds concert at Cain's Ballroom Saturday night. They were on their way home to Wichita when the plane crashed about 1:45 a.m., less than a half hour after taking off, the parents said.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the accident.

An NTSB spokesman said a preliminary report should be released in seven to 10 days, but reports of what caused the accident could take up to 18 months.

"Investigators will investigate and examine the wreckage and look for fractures and anomalies that they can find visibly," said Keith Holloway, NTSB public affair's officer. Anomalies would include dents or failures in the metal, he said.

Ryan Sageser rented the 2003 Cessna Skyhawk plane from Wichita-based Yingling Aviation, the same company that gave him part of a scholarship to get his pilot's license in 2005.

Dave Franson, public relations representative for Yingling, said the company is participating in the investigation, but said he could not speculate what caused the crash. The plane, he said, is regularly maintained.

Skies were overcast, but an NTSB investigator earlier said that weather probably wasn't a factor in the accident.

On Monday, Sam and Jackie Biedron sat in the waiting room at St. John and Tom Rice later joined them. Their relief was obvious but turned bittersweet with mention of the Sageser family.

"It is a serious two-sided coin," Sam Biedron said.

Their families were bonded by their sons' friendship. The teenagers went to the same Catholic school in Wichita, where together they ran track and cross country.

Their lives abruptly changed Sunday morning.

The Biedrons' phone rang at 6 a.m. It was Mark Sageser's wife calling to say the plane had crashed, Sam Biedron said.

There were no details. No word on who -- if anyone -- survived.

The Rices received a similar phone call around the same time.

For 90 minutes three families didn't know if their loved ones were alive or dead.

"The first hour was the toughest," Tom Rice said. "We basically had to let him (John) go. It was easier for me that way."

At 7:30 a.m., the Biedrons and Rices said staff at St. John called to say their sons were there. Alive.

"When we got the call from the hospital, I couldn't believe it," said Sam Biedron. "It was a call from an angel, and the women on the other end sounded like an angel. She really did."

The parents said John Rice doesn't remember the crash, and that Ryan Biedron doesn't recall anything wrong before he was knocked out by the impact.

"Ryan (Biedron) came to, and thought it was just a bad dream," said his father, Sam Biedron. "When he realized he was awake," he found that it was no dream.

John Rice was trapped in the plane. The tibia in his leg is shattered. Mark Sageser, also pinned in the plane, was not responsive after the aircraft went down, Tom Rice said.

Ryan Sageser and Ryan Biedron were able to crawl from the plane, he said.

Ryan Biedron called 911 on a cell phone, but a rescue team struggled for hours to find them in such a remote and unmarked area in the middle of the night, the 18-year-old told his family.

He said he was on the phone with 911 staff for two hours as rescuers scoured the area in search of the downed plane.

John Rice, an Eagle scout, had a better view from within the plane where he was trapped, and together the two teenagers tried to make themselves found.

Finally they saw a light and heard sirens, but another hour passed before rescuers could reach them about 200 yards from a dirt road. Ryan Sageser and his father were pronounced dead at the scene.

Joint services for Ryan and Mark Sageser will be held this week in Wichita. A rosary is planned for 7 p.m. Thursday and a funeral for 1 p.m. Friday at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church.

The Wichita Eagle contributed to this story.


Copyright (c) 2006, Tulsa World, Okla.

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