Driver of vehicle hit by plane on I-35W recalls frightening collision and the kindness that followed

Driver of vehicle hit by plane on I-35W recalls frightening collision and the kindness that followed Photo: Chopper 5.

Alex Jokich
Updated: December 03, 2020 06:35 PM
Created: December 03, 2020 06:32 PM

The Maple Grove woman whose SUV was hit by a plane that made an emergency landing on Interstate 35W on Wednesday is now thanking the pilot for his kindness in the moments that followed.

Brittany Yurik, a mother of two, said she was driving home from a late-shift job around 9:30 p.m. when the plane started to go down behind her.

Minnesota State Patrol said the unexpected landing happened on northbound I-35W near I-694 in Arden Hills. The suspected emergency landing was captured on Minnesota Department of Transportation traffic cameras.

Video captures small plane landing on I-35W in Arden Hills

"I only saw something for a split second before it hit me," Yurik said. "They hit the ground and then immediately hit me and we kind of slid together down the highway. And then it was just so incredibly loud, the crunching of metal. That's what keeps going through my head is the noise and just thinking, there is no way we could all be OK after that kind of an impact."

She said the next thing she remembers is looking outside at the plane.

"A man and a woman were in the plane and when I eventually looked up, they were hugging each other, obviously thankful they were able to land," Yurik said.

The State Patrol identified the pilot as 52-year-old Craig Gifford, of Minneapolis.

According to Gifford's personal website, he is an experienced aviator who has been a pilot for more than 30 years. The website states that he has also competed in the World Advanced Aerobatic Championships.

No injuries reported after small plane lands on I-35W near I-694, hits 1 vehicle

Yurik said the pilot told her he had a complete engine failure. She said he helped pull her to safety after they collided.

"Of course it was an absolute circus. They helped me get underneath the plane and get to safety because the plane was kind of smoking," Yurik recalled. "They were both beyond kind and so apologetic. He told me several times that he tried to avoid exactly what happened. He was doing an emergency landing and was trying to land in between vehicles and of course that didn't work out. He's just an amazing guy. Of all the people to have gotten hit by an airplane by, I'm glad it was him."

The State Patrol said no one was hurt in the incident. The SUV and plane both suffered damage.

Yurik said, in the moments following the impact, she was inspired by all the witnesses who stopped to help at the scene.

"Just all the people that were there, that were checking, it really makes you look around at your community and be like, wow, this is unbelievable that there are that many kind people in this world," Yurik said. "And I am just so unbelievably grateful that I got to come home to my family."

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating.

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