‘We did what we could do’: Witnesses reflect on deadly Coeur d’Alene plane crash

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — This Fourth of July weekend, people were out on Lake Coeur d’Alene enjoying the weather. In a blink of an eye, excitement turned into tragedy.

On Sunday, eight people perished in a plane crash. The seconds leading up to the deadly crash was spotted by boaters.

“One of my friends in the boat, Rika, screamed loudly over the music,” said Grant Marchant, who was wake surfing with his back to the planes. “It was definitely a death-curdling scream, scared scream.”

He said Rika saw the planes before the crash.

“I heard an exploding, cracking sound behind me,” Marchant said. “I saw the plane fall for a good three seconds before hitting the water.”

Another person with his same group was Carissa Lehmkuhl.

“When most of us looked over, it was when — we heard the explosion and all this debris is falling down,” she explained.

They were a few hundred feet away from the crash site and rushed over there in their boat.

“I think we all had the mindset of maybe there’s people alive that we could help or something,” Lehmkuhl said.

Marchant got himself to the back of the boat before he heard a fisherman yell from another boat.

“He shouts that he had located a body. Shortly after that he said, “I got two bodies over here. I need help. I need help,” Marchant said.

Marchant and his friend jumped in the water. That’s when they made the gruesome discovery.

They found one person dead in the water. He put the life jacket under his chest.

After, he said another person was found. They were not alive either.

“I was able to swim the body with the life jacket back to the man in the fishing boat with the other body,” he said. “He tossed me a rope and I was able to secure it around that young man’s leg as well and we were able to keep the bodies corralled against that fishing boat.”

They held the bodies at the back of the fisherman’s boat until the Coast Guard got there.

Meanwhile, Lehmkuhl was on the boat.

“We were waiting kinda near the fishing boat right at the heart of the wreckage to kinda shoo people away, especially if they had kids because of how bad of a scene it was,” she explained.

While they were telling people they should avoid the area, they had a split second to collect their thoughts.

“We all just got in front of the group and held each other and prayed over the whole situation,” Lehmkuhl said. “I’ll never forget that.”

She said another boat found some sort of log book, which they gave to authorities.

Once the bodies were taken by officials, Marchant got on the boat with his friends.

“Hopped on the back of our party’s boat and kinda just sunk in there just because I just had a moment to gather my thoughts,” he explained. “What I just did and what just happened.”

It’s been 24 hours since the crash, which has given them time to process the horrific day.

“I just think that human life is so valuable and to think that eight people were lost, it makes me so, so sad for the families,” Lehmkuhl said.

Marchant thought about the lack of hesitation to jump in the water and save any lives he could.

“We did what we could do and it’s something you don’t think about it really,” he said. “You just, you know, that there’s potential life in the water right now that needs helps.”

One thing that Marchant would like to do is thank the fisherman who helped. He didn’t catch his name during the chaotic scene, but is determined to meet him one day.

“I would just love to shake that guy’s hand and just say thank you for being there, part of it,” Marchant said, “and for his help and his fast acting as well.”

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