CHENEY, Wash.--A local teenager was the only survivor of a March plane crash in Western Washington. The plane crashed into a garage killing the pilot.
"Propeller just went out,” said Aiden Hubbard. "That's when I knew we were falling and there was no way to get out of this."
"I remember waking up and being upside down and hanging out of the plane," said Hubbard.
It has been nearly four months since Aiden Hubbard survived a catastrophic plane crash.
The Cheney High School freshman and his uncle Jay Uusitalo were flying in a small, personal aircraft over the Puget Sound, while the family was visiting relatives in the Seattle area.
"There were absolutely no clouds in the sky," Hubbard recalled. "You could see everything, from the mountains to the coast. Just absolutely beautiful."
But suddenly, the propeller stalled.
"The light went on,” said Hubbard. That's when I knew we were falling. And there was no way out of this."
The two began to freefall. 700 feet. Hubbard said it took less than 15 seconds to reach the ground. The tiny plane plunged into the side of a house. Hubbard said much of it was a blur, but the last thing he remembers is crystal clear.
"Jay throwing himself across me, and taking most of the blow,” he said. “The whole entire right side of his body was broken. And that's where it would have hit me if he wasn't there."
Uusitalo did not survive the crash.
Hubbard broke his back, but was miraculously alive. Doctors immediately performed a rare partial fusion spinal surgery. He spent weeks at Harborview Medical Center, but surgeons say the teen should fully recover within the next year.
His mother, Heather Hubbard, says she still struggles to believe that her son survived. She said the community support is what carried her through the crisis.
"We just felt small and didn't know what to do,” she said.
And from the moment of crisis, there were people that were there and doing what was needed.
Neighbors, church members, and even perfect strangers donated money and time to help the Hubbard family.
Some offered to watch Heather's younger children so she take Aiden to doctors appointments. Others delivered home-cooked meals to their door, and Cheney high school students held a fundraiser to help defray medical expenses.
"Since we've been back," she said. "It's been a huge blessing to have so many people meeting needs that we didn't even know we had."
Another group of supporters made 1,000 paper cranes for the family.
"Every one of those cranes helps," she said. "Every effort. Every thought."
And Aiden says the generosity has him giving thanks for the entire experience, despite his loss.
"There's no measure of gratefulness or thanks that we could say."
The 15-year-old is currently on restricted movement, while his back heals. He was only allowed to carry the weight of a milk jug, which he admits has been hard.
"My mom doesn't let me do anything," said Hubbard.
His mother agreed that it has been an adjustment.
"The physical limitations are difficult,” she said. “Because he's an active guy, and now he's not allowed to be.”
Hubbard will have to endure another spinal surgery this fall, to remove the rods and pins that are currently supporting his spine. However, he said each milestone he makes in physical therapy is a constant reminder of how far he has come.
"Plane crashes are not something that you walk away from. It's just not something you survive," said Hubbard.
Now, because of his uncle's sacrifice, Hubbard is determined not just to survive, but also to thrive.
“He was a great man,” added Hubbard. And he will always be a great example in my life."