AKRON, Ohio (WKBN) – After spending the night in a local hotel with just the clothes on his back, Paul Raider was finally able to gather of a few of his belongings.
Raider lives in an apartment building right next door to one that caught fire Tuesday afternoon, after a Hawker 125-700A jet crashed into it and killed all nine people on board. If you look immediately to the left of the charred building, you can see his cracked windows.
Raider said it is lucky that he is alive.
“I still feel the adrenaline rush. You can still taste the smoke,” he said.
Raider was having coffee just down the road around 3 p.m. Tuesday when he heard — and felt — the impact and ran to the scene. After making sure all of his neighbors were accounted for, he jumped in his car to get it away from the flames.
“When I got into my car, there was the most intense heat I’ve ever felt,” he said. “I’m praying. I’m like, “God, don’t let me die moving my car.'”
A series of lucky incidents led to the apartment and nearby homes being unoccupied.
One woman said she went to get a beer with her son when the plane struck. Another man who lived in the unit that the plane crashed into said he was not home because he’d gone to the store to buy Hot Pockets, a brand of microwavable turnovers.
Jason Bartley told the Akron Beacon Journal that he feels lucky but also in shock over the crash. The 38-year-old factory worker said he was coming home when he saw the flames.
Raider’s Saturn is still covered in soot from Tuesday, and he admitted to coming back to the scene Wednesday. The sadness, he said, is finally sinking in.
“Seeing the building and just thanking God that no one was in the building at the time, and then you see parts of the plane in the yard where you see a building used to be, and your heart goes out to all those people,” he said.
While the American Red Cross and local emergency management is helping neighbors find places to stay, Raider thinks it could be a few more days before he and others living in either side of the crash scene will be able to return home again.
Investigators are trying to determine what caused the fiery plane crash. Although officials have not identified the victims as of Wednesday afternoon, they say all nine passengers on board have died. No one was in the four-unit apartment building when the plane crashed into it just before 3 p.m. Tuesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.