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Santee plane crash survivors still reeling

Cody and Courtney Campbell outside their home that was gutted when a Cessna A340 plane crashed into it, Oct. 12, 2021.
Carlos Castillos / KPBS
Cody and Courtney Campbell outside their home that was gutted when a Cessna A340 plane crashed into it, Oct. 12, 2021.

James Slaff-Gruel's parents were sitting inside their home watching TV when the plane and the ensuing fireball came ripping through their home.

The crash killed two people, destroyed two homes and damaged 10 others.

Santee plane crash survivors still reeling
Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

"My first reaction was, 'This can't be real,'" he said. "This is something out of a bad video game or a war movie. This isn't something that's possible."

Slaff-Gruel was standing outside his parents' gutted home, trying to make sense of what happened when the twin-engine Cessna 340A crashed Monday, killing two.

Shortly after the crash, neighbors rushed in to help his parents, Phil and Marie Morris, get to safety. Marie was pulled out of the home's side windows and Phil was rescued from the backyard.

"The people who risked their lives to save mom and Phil, I have no words," Slaff-Gruel said. "You just cannot say thank you enough, thank you isn't enough."

The couple was taken to UC San Diego Medical Center with third-degree burns. Slaff-Gruel said the couple is conscious but he is worried about their mental health when everything sets in.

"It's the emotional side that you’re kind of unsure about," he said. "You don't know how somebody is going to react to this once the shock wears off and you see your house like this."

RELATED: ‘You appear to be descending again sir,’ pilot told before deadly Santee crash

Newlyweds Cody and Courtney Campbell live in the second house that was completely destroyed. They sometimes worked from home, but Monday they were both at work when the plane crashed.

"I was able to see my house from the back side and that’s when I knew right away that it was a total loss," Cody Campbell said. "Obviously it was pretty traumatic."

Cody was supposed to be home from work early Monday and Courtney was frantic, unsure if he was safe.

"I couldn't get a hold of him," she said. "He wasn’t answering. I thought maybe he did go home and then he finally picked up the phone."

"I had about 400 missed calls," Cody said. "And an abundance of text messages."

Santee plane crash survivors still reeling from what happened

Just by chance, Cody’s mom picked up their 15-year-old dog that morning, likely saving its life. The couple were just married in May and had just bought the home, but they were glad they still have each other because it could have been a much different ending.

"With all luck, we’ll be able to put some of the pieces together but most importantly we could be doing a much different interview," Cody Campbell said.

"Those things aren’t important in the end this is all that matters," Courtney said.

The Campbells and others impacted by this tragedy say they are so grateful for the community’s support as they work through the process of rebuilding their lives.

A GoFundMe has been set up to help the Campbells with temporary housing, clothes and other essentials.

A GoFundMe was also set up to help Phil and Marie Morris with their medical bills.