Jason Bartley is very grateful for a late afternoon hankering for Hot Pockets. That’s because Tuesday afternoon, he was out of his Akron, Ohio, apartment running some hum-drum errands — a trip to the bank, and to the dollar store for the fast food — when a plane crashed into his apartment building.
He lost everything he owns, but is grateful that he walked away with his life, the 38-year-old factory worker told the Akron Beacon Journal.
“Anything could have went differently and I would have been — nobody’s going to survive once it hit. I would have never known what happened. Everybody feels lucky. But you never feel this lucky.”
Forty minutes before a plane carrying seven Boca Raton executives and two crew crashed into his building, Jason was on his computer in his apartment, getting ready to book a vacation to Miami for the week after Christmas. But before he got started, he decided to run some errands.
According to Cleveland.com, he went to the Giant Eagle supermarket, then the bank for cash, and then a Dollar General for Hot Pockets — a pizza Hot Pocket for dinner and a breakfast Hot Pocket for breakfast the next morning.
He said the trip ended up taking longer than he wanted — before long, he had to get ready for work. Forty-five minutes after his errand run began, he headed home. But what he found there was terrifying.
On the way back, Bartley said he saw smoke and flames and realized they were pretty close to home. Since the roads were closed, he parked his car and ran toward the building, and soon learned that it was ablaze.
He immediately blamed himself, thinking that he’d left the stove on. But a bystander filled him in, telling him that a plane had crashed into the building.
“I was a little bit in disbelief, because I didn’t think a small plane could cause that [damage]. At the time, I thought it was a single-engine plane. I didn’t realize it was a jet engine.”
So he stood outside the building, his Hot Pockets likely forgotten, and watched it burn before heading to work as planned for a 4 p.m. shift at Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics — the company makes plastic and rubber tubing. He told his boss the story — about the trip for Hot Pockets and returning home to find a plane had destroyed his apartment — and his boss told him to go home.
That’s when Jason learned the scope of what he’d lost in the blaze: books, personal photos, and family gifts, an afghan his mother made, a new bedroom set, and all his clothes. The Red Cross offered help and gave him a prepaid gift card. Jason went to stay with his parents, headed to Wal-Mart to buy new clothes, and now plans to stay with a friend for a few days. But he doesn’t know what he’ll do now — he didn’t have insurance.
Since the fateful day a random and otherwise meaningless trip for Hot Pockets saved his life, Bartley said he’s having a hard time coping with what happened — and what could’ve been. He’s been grateful, then on the verge of tears, then nauseated. Most of all, he’s thankful his neighbors weren’t hurt — he’s lived in the apartment only since this summer.
“It’s still even hard to comprehend … I feel very lucky that I left. At the same time, I feel very sad for everyone who was on that plane.”
Meanwhile, USA Today reported that security footage from a local business captured the plane flying at a low altitude before the crash, then banking to the left. Bella Dinh-Zarr, vice chair of the National Traffic Safety Board, said the left wing hit the ground first before slamming into the apartment building and hitting an embankment.
Several causes are now being investigated, including plane maintenance, air traffic control, operations, flight control, records, and potential issues with its two engines.
[Photo By Scott Ferrell / Associated Press]