Student hospitalized after fatal plane crash details what went wrong

By Syan Rhodes - Anchor/Reporter, Phil Archer - Reporter

ARCOLA, Texas - The flight student who survived a  Ft. Bend County plane crash that killed his instructor is speaking out about the experience.

Nezabian Thomas, 20, is in the Air National Guard and took up flying lessons in January as a hobby.

"It was a New Year's goal of mine to start flying," Thomas said in a phone interview with KPRC 2 News.

But at the start of Monday's lesson with 68-year-old instructor Johnny Johnson, Thomas said things went very wrong when they caught a strong crosswind just after takeoff.

"Me and my instructor are trying to correct and after that we didn't have enough thrust to climb anymore, so the nose went down and next thing you know you've got three seconds, you hit the ground. It was at a pretty bad angle too," Thomas said.

He was able to save himself, crawling out of the flaming wreckage, but his 68-year-old instructor died.

"He's a very safe pilot, so I never thought this could happen to him. How do you prepare for this?" said Johnson's wife, Benjie Sanderson.

From his home nearby, Francisco Roque saw the column of thick, black smoke and began driving toward it as he photographed it with his cellphone.

“I live right next door. I was headed out, and I saw the heavy smoke coming out of the hanger and grabbed my camera and started recording.” Roque said.

Johnson worked for Houston Light Sport Aviation, a flight school based at the airport, and owner of the aircraft. Investigators said he had logged thousands of hours in the air. Thomas, they said, had flown five previous times with the school's instructors.

Sanderson said her husband loved to fly and loved to teach others.

"If he had to die unexpectedly, I really do believe this would have been his choice,” said Johnson’s stepdaughter, Mary Redwine. "I'm sure he regrets someone else was injured in the process."

Federal Aviation Administration investigators were expected to arrive late Monday.

2016 Click2Houston/KPRC2