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Monday 11 December 2017

Miracle escape for Olympian as plane crashes

Anne-Marie Walsh

A FORMER Irish Olympic athlete made a miraculous escape when a plane piloted by her husband crashed into a mountain in the US.

Karen Shinkins said she and husband Paul Doyle, who live in Atlanta, are the "luckiest couple alive" after surviving an emergency landing in the hills of Virginia last Saturday.

The couple only suffered minor injuries when their small plane nosedived into the foot of a hill after barely missing a fence in a field near Elk Creek, Virginia.

Paul was piloting his Cessna 172 on the way home to Atlanta with his wife following a business meeting.


Karen, a retired professional track and field athlete from Newbridge in Kildare who represented Ireland in the 400m and 4 x 400m relay in the Sydney Olympics in 2000, said she had just "tagged along".

Her husband Paul, from Boston, is agent to some of Jamaica's top athletes, including Asafa Powell and Brigitte Foster-Hylton.

Karen told how she was on the verge of hysteria when their plane began to struggle after hitting an unexpected rainstorm thousands of feet in the air.

The only thing that stopped her from screaming was the fear that her husband would not be able to keep a cool head.

"We were getting shook and pushed around and my husband was working hard to keep our levels even and maintain elevation," she said.

She said her heart was beating "at 190 miles a second" as he tried to find a break in the clouds and fly to the closest airport, but there was nothing.

"If we had a parachute and ejector seat, then you better believe I was outta there," she said. "Inside I'm screaming at the top of my voice, but outside, I never made a sound. Not a peep."

When airtraffic control asked if they would make an emergency landing, she said: "Right then, I knew we were f**ked."

They landed in a field after initially thinking about a deserted road, but were afraid of hitting an electrical post and causing a fuel explosion.

"When I tell you we hit hard, I'm not kidding," she said.

"We hit, we bounced. We hit and slid. We struck a small hill which launched us over a fence and straight into another hill where we eventually came to a stop. . . I can smell fuel and am convinced the plane might explode and I want out, fast.

"I can't believe both of us are standing there, wherever it is we are, alive. Something or someone, was truly looking out for us that day, no doubt."

She was amazed to find she only had bruises and scratches after locals rushed to their aid.

Karen said her husband's level-headiness and skill was why they escaped with little more than bruises.

Irish Independent

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