4-year-old died while they tried to save himThe fire ignited when the small airplane smashed into a parking lot and empty building in central Anchorage on a failed takeoff. Passersby ran to pull four burning people from the Cessna Skywagon.
But when they tried to rescue 4-year-old Miles Cavner, the airplane cabin was engulfed in fire.
As Stacie Cavner screamed that her son was burning, police officer Will Cameron spotted Miles on the cabin floor. Fire was scorching the boy's body — and keeping Cameron from saving him.
"We tried to go back in for the young boy," Cameron reflected recently on the June 1, 2010, crash, "but at that point it was too much, so we couldn't get to him."
Small-airplane fires have killed at least 600 people since 1993, burning them alive or suffocating them after crashes and hard landings that the passengers and pilots had initially survived, a USA TODAY investigation shows. The victims who died from fatal burns or smoke inhalation often had few if any broken bones or other injuries, according to hundreds of autopsy reports obtained by USA TODAY.
Fires have erupted after incidents as minor as an airplane veering off a runway and into brush or hitting a chain-link fence, government records show. The impact ruptures fuel tanks or fuel lines, or both, causing leaks and airplane-engulfing blazes.
Fires also contributed to the death of at least 308 more people who suffered burns or smoke inhalation as well as traumatic...