Plane crash 2022: Husband, wife, their niece and puppy survived fiery airplane accident
RAY TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- A Michigan husband and wife are speaking out for the first time after surviving a fiery plane crash.
"The world sort of slowed down there, and those moments felt a little bit like an eternity," Ronny Kamal told ABC News.
Kamal, the pilot; his wife, Olympian Chirine Njeim; their niece, Siena Kamal; and their dog, Charlie took off in a single-engine aircraft from a small Michigan airport last month.
Soon after, 17-year-old Siena Kamal felt something was amiss.
"The plane started shifting a little bit and like, irregular movement, just wobbling, and I knew that it wasn't turbulence. It wasn't really weather," she said.
Within minutes, the plane took a nosedive. Njeim said there was no time to be scared.
"I felt like everything just went silent. I heard nothing on the cabin, and I just embraced myself. And then when the plane, you know, went down and all I remember after that, I remember thinking to myself, 'oh my gosh, like when the plane is going to hit, this is how my life is going to end,'" she said.
They were about a hundred feet in the air when Kamal, an experienced pilot, was able to carry out a controlled crash.
"It was just disbelief that this was actually happening, but there wasn't time to be scared in that moment because the moment felt like a dream," he said.
The plane plummeted into the trees. The aftermath consisted of flattened, twisted wreckage and mangled metal. The six-seater plane was decimated.
Jared Steffan, a family friend who was at the airport witnessed the plane go down, and called 911. His voice was trembling on the line. He was panting as he raced to the scene and over the next few minutes.
"I can hear them," he could be heard saying. "Oh my God, they are screaming. I don't know what to do."
The first out of the ashes of the aircraft was Siena Kamal.
"Come here, honey; it's OK," Steffan said. "You're alive."
All three emerged without serious injury.
Their beloved dog, Charlie, ran off after the crash, but was found 13 hours later.
"(Charlie's) definitely experienced more in six months than I think most golden retrievers have at this point," Ronny Kamal said. "I'm happy that she's just around barking and reinforcing that, you know, there's too much fun to be had in life to try to get bogged down."
Kamal said he has 26 years of flying experience, and, to this day, still can't figure out what went wrong. But the family is counting their blessings.
"I'm so grateful to get to wake up every morning next to my wife," he said. "I'm so grateful that my niece is resilient."
"Every day's a gift. Life is beautiful, and we are trying to enjoy the best out of it and enjoy every moment of it," Njeim said.