COVINGTON, Tenn. –An emotional reunion in Covington, Tennessee between first responders and a man who nearly died in a plane crash.
Kent Wingate was the pilot of a single engine plane that went down in a heavily wooded area of Lauderdale County near the Hatchie River in May of 2014.
Wingate suffered broken bones and a traumatic head injury that caused him to lose most of his memory.
The Covington, Tennessee native, who now lives in Ohio, was trapped for several hours in the wreckage.
“I recall absolutely nothing about the crash,” said Wingate.
The dozens of first responders, volunteers and “everyday people” who played a role in saving his life were a mystery to him until Friday.
“It just kind of blows me away. A lot of these folks I’ve never met before. So I have no idea who some of these people are,”he said.
Former Memphis Firefighter Rick Finney was a crop duster who first spotted the “downed” plane from the air.
Finney landed his plane, swam the Hatchie River to get to Wingate and did what he could to help the unconscious pilot.
He recalled having to cut the pilot’s Mississippi State alumni belt to get him out of the plane.
“It caught on the control yoke in the airplane, so I had to cut it. So that was the sacrifice he had to make to get out of the airplane. He had to sacrifice his college belt,” said Finney.
Rita McCoy was a flight nurse with the Hospital Wing.
The last time she saw Kent Wingate, he was suffering from traumatic head and internal injuries and clinging to life.
“He was unconscious when we received him. So naturally I knew he would not know who I was, as well as the other responders that day. But that’s okay,” she told WREG.
A year later, she said Wingate’s recovery was a true miracle.
And while no one at Friday’s unique reunion wanted to be called a “hero”, Katherine Wingate, Kent’s wife, felt very differently.
“I appreciate you guys saving his life,” she said.