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'I didn't believe it was happening'

Utah survivors tell of moments before and after plane crashed

Wendy Bonham waited alone in the dense Missouri forest.

The commuter plane in which she was traveling had just crashed — and the Spanish Fork resident thought she was the only survivor. She would later learn that one of her two traveling companions had also survived.

Bonham crawled out of an emergency exit door, dropped eight feet to the ground and walked away from the flames relatively unscathed, her husband told the Deseret Morning News Thursday.

She called out for survivors but didn't hear a response. Smoke from the suffocating flames made it hard to speak, Russ Bonham said. She didn't know her boss, John Krogh, had escaped minutes earlier and was also crying out for other survivors.

"She didn't know where he was or whether he got out," Russ Bonham said in a phone interview from Missouri's Northeast Regional Medical Center on Thursday.

Krogh, 68, and Bonham, 44, are the only two survivors of Tuesday's commuter jet crash in Missouri that claimed 13 lives. The twin-engine turboprop crashed Tuesday night near Kirksville in northern Missouri. Clark Brenton Ator, 39, an Alpine man and the bishop of his local LDS ward, died in the crash.

Krogh described the tragedy to ABC's "Good Morning America."

"There was just a crashing sound," he said. "I'm sure that was the wing hitting a tree. I just didn't believe that it was happening. As we bounced along through the trees, people started screaming badly. Terrible screams.

He said he fell out of the burning plane through an exit door. "I didn't know we had assigned seats, and I walked in there and sat down in that seat, and that may have saved my life," Krogh said.

The Utahns were traveling with other faculty members of the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine. The group had planned on attending a conference on humanism in medicine, Philip Slocum, dean and vice president for medical affairs at the college, told the Associated Press.

Krogh and Bonham worked together at a Kirksville College office in Orem. Bonham started working there earlier this year, Russ Bonham said. Ator also worked with the office, teaching third- and fourth-year osteopathic medicine students.

Bonham escaped with a broken arm and mild to severe burns over 8 percent of her body. Krogh, of Wallsburg, Wasatch County, suffered a broken left hip and a fracture to his back. Doctors performed emergency hip replacement surgery Tuesday night after the crash, his wife Karen Krogh told the Morning News.

Krogh's broken hip made it impossible for him to walk away from the crash, Karen Krogh said. Instead, he crawled nearly 25 feet away from the wreckage and waited for rescuers in some bushes.

While waiting, Krogh said he saw someone escape from the plane but didn't know it was Bonham.

"He tried calling out, but they couldn't hear him," his wife, Karen Krogh, said. "He had no voice."

Krogh's daughter, Janelle Vorkink, was waiting at the Kirksville terminal with four of her children. She realized something was wrong before official word came.

"I started bawling," she said.

But then came news that at least two people had survived the crash. That gave her "this little glimmer of hope," she said.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. The Corporate Airlines plane crashed late Tuesday in a dense forest as it approached Kirksville Regional Airport. Skies were overcast, and there were thunderstorms in the area when the plane went down.

Air traffic control tapes and the plane's flight data recorders indicated the flight was making a normal approach to the airport before the crash, said Carol Carmody, a National Transportation Safety Board member.

The plane's pilot said he saw the "field in sight," according to the cockpit voice recorder; 13 seconds later there was a sound of impact. Three seconds later, the recording ends.

Krogh told Russ Bonham that everything seemed to be perfectly normal on the approach. "Then, all of a sudden, the aircraft and wings seemed to hit tree tops, and it was all downhill from there," Russ Bonham said.

Today, Wendy Bonham still struggles to speak. She is heavily sedated, and when she does speak, she becomes too emotional, Russ Bonham said. She can't help but think of the young family of Ator, a friend and co-worker who died in the crash.

"That's what is the most excruciating for Wendy is that family," Russ Bonham said.

Ator and his wife, Karlene, have seven children, ages 3 months to 14 years, said McKay Pearson, a close friend and first counselor in the LDS bishopric with Ator.

Ator's friends and family continue to grieve at the loss of their father, friend and LDS bishop.

The 1983 Davis High School graduate was known for his bubbly personality and athletic lifestyle. His friends called him Brent, a shortened version of his middle name, as a child.

Ator excelled in wrestling at Davis High. That athletic knack continued into his adult life, when he coached a Little League football team in Alpine.

Sandi Simmons has known Ator since she began taking tap dance classes from Ator's mother, Gloria, when Simmons was 4 years old. It was just two weeks ago that Simmons thought of calling up her old friend and checking on him. But Thursday, Simmons had a "sick feeling" in her stomach knowing that she will never talk to him again.

"I had a crush on him from 4 years old until — forever," said Simmons, who attended school with Ator all the way through high school. "He's just a very genuine, sweet, outgoing, friendly man."

Ator served as bishop of the Mountainville 1st Ward in Alpine. Ward members were still in shock about the plane crash Thursday. One ward member, Caroldean Neves, said, "Bishop Ator is a great man and will be greatly missed by his ward family."

His family has requested privacy to grieve but released a statement to the media.

"Clark was the finest, attentive father and husband. He adored his children. His family was the center of his life," the family wrote. "He exemplified the Savior through his service to his fellow man."

Jesse Hunsaker, president of the Alpine Utah LDS Stake, said the family is planning Ator's funeral. Condolences can be sent to the family at

Contributing: Associated Press