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EX-UTAHN IS FUNNY, GRATEFUL AFTER SURVIVING N.C. AIR CRASH

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A severely injured Ron Lewis saw some humor in his predicament as he sat pinned in the shredded fuselage of an American Eagle commuter plane that crashed Tuesday in North Carolina.

"Could you loosen the seat belt? I'm feeling a little uncomfortable," he had said to a rescuer. Lewis was still in his seat - in the reclining position - at the rear of the plane.That understatement was part of many stories firefighters, paramedics, nurses and volunteer rescuers told Bob Lewis, Ron's twin brother, as he sought out those who came to his brother's aid this past week. "It has been so wonderful to see the outpouring of care and concern."

Ron Lewis, a native of American Fork, was one of five survivors of Flight 3379, which crashed 3 1/2 miles from the Raleigh-Durham International Airport in fog and drizzle. Fifteen others died.

Bob Lewis, his brothers, Vaughn and Mark, and their father, Kenneth, flew to Raleigh Wednesday to comfort Ron. He remains in serious but stable condition at Wake Medical Center's intensive-care unit.

Ron and Diane Lewis and their four children moved to Crystal Park, Ill., in August when Ron was transferred from the Sears Tele-service Center in Provo to the company's Chicago headquarters. Ron Lewis, a service manager, was returning home from a business trip when the plane went down.

He never lost consciousness after the crash.

"He was just a rock. He was in a lot of pain, but he didn't make a noise. In fact, he was cracking jokes," Bob Lewis said.

As amazed as Bob Lewis is that his brother survived, he's equally amazed at the people living near the crash site who ventured into the dark, rugged woods to look for survivors.

"The people who went to help were just fantastic," he said. Rescuers slogged through a mud bog to reach the wrecked plane. Somehow, several made it in 10 minutes.

Still, for Ron Lewis it was an eternity.

"He said it was the longest night in his life," Bob Lewis said. "He was never so glad to see a flashlight."

Those Good Samaritans began transporting injured passengers away from the wreckage in their own four-wheel-drive vehicles. One woman, Sue Phillips, gently soothed Ron Lewis as they drove.

In talking to her this week, Bob Lewis found another piece of irony. Like Ron and Bob Lewis, Phillips is a twin. And a firefighter who helped Ron Lewis also has a twin. Several hospital workers who were involved are twins.

"Just about everywhere we have gone, we have found this theme of twins," he said.

Although all four Lewis brothers are close, the twins share a special bond. It showed when the Lewises didn't know whether Ron had survived the doomed flight.

"I was particularly upset. I thought I was going to lose my twin," he said. Bob Lewis learned his brother was alive after searching the Associated Press news wire on CompuServe Tuesday night.

Bob Lewis said his heart goes out to the families and friends of those whose loved ones died.

"I wish we weren't here and having to go through this. But we feel fortunate to be in the situation we're in. Given the choices, we'll take this one."