Homeowner left just before plane crashed into her home

Posted: Tuesday, August 07, 2007

ANCHORAGE - If not for that chocolate milkshake, Tess Heyburn might have been home when a plane rammed through her house Monday.

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"I was sitting in a restaurant nearby when it crashed," the 49-year-old massage therapist said in a telephone interview. "It sounded like something had fallen off a truck. Then I saw a lot of people running and I followed suit - and saw that it was my house."

The Piper Meridian turboprop was believed to have four people on board when it crashed around 1 p.m., a block from a downtown street bustling with cruise ship tourists visiting the scenic coastal town. There were no survivors, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

When the plane went down, houses on Heyburn's block were occupied.

"A lot of my neighbors have kids and they're home all the time," she said. "I would've been at home, too, but my friend called me to meet him for a milkshake."

When she saw her house erupt into smoke and flames, Heyburn had to turn away. She couldn't watch after that, but learned it was so damaged it will have to be demolished. Hours later, she still hadn't gone back.

"I really can't bear to look at it right now," she said.

She also has no idea how her two cats had fared, but was holding out hope they were outside at the time.

Heyburn was remarkably calm despite losing all her belongings. At the beginning, though, her reaction was "shock and crying," she said.

Now her prayers were with those on board the plane and how thankful she was to be alive, thankful that no one on the ground was hurt.

"Right now I'm pretty much looking at it like a miracle," she said.

There was no chance to dwell on being left homeless, either.

Heyburn, a 14-year resident, said numerous locals have reached out to comfort her. She's had at least 10 people offering to open up their homes to her.

"I've been surrounded by a lot nice people," she said. "I have a place to stay."

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