A 20-year-old aviation student will face lifelong challenges after surviving a plane crash in May.
Kayla Gilbreath was one of two people on board a small plane that crashed into a McKinney home. She doesn't remember the crash nor does she remember anything from several weeks afterward She was the passenger on the small plane when it crashed.
Gilbreath had just gotten her pilot's license while studying aviation at the University of Oklahoma when she decided to spend a second summer working on planes and getting in-flight hours at the Aero Country Airport in her hometown of McKinney.
On May 23, someone from an aero club at the airport asked a pilot to take Gilbreath up. The NTSB's preliminary report says the piper plane they were in "landed hard, bounced, then landed and bounced again before a go-around attempt was made."
The plane barely cleared hangars at the airport before hitting the roof of a storage facility near a busy intersection and crashed into a home. A mom and her three young kids were in the home, but none of them were hurt.
“I don't remember that day at all,” Gilbreath said. “All of that is gone, and basically the month after.”
Gilbreath spent much of that month in a coma. A drain relieved pressure on her brain and a ventilator breathing for her. All her front teeth were knocked out, and she had a broken rib. Her mother sent her text messages every day detailing any sign of recovery. She says it was overwhelming to wake up and read.
“It was like I was reading a story about somebody else,” she said.
Ron McCallum is Gilbreath’s attorney. He says she's made major progress with her traumatic brain injury, but still can't perform some daily functions, has trouble focusing and has lost a lot of her independence.
“It is a miracle that Kayla survived not only the crash but the treatment in the weeks that followed,” he said.
McCallum says Gilbreath’s medical bills surmount $1 million so far, and there are no insurance requirements for private planes.
“This is another example of a life destroyed, a family ruined and millions of dollars of medical bills that are going to be paid for by somebody else,” he said.
“Since fifth grade, I wanted to be a pilot,” Gilbreath said. “An accident like this happens and it puts everything into perspective how fast that can change.”
The pilot of the plane was also seriously injured, but not as critical as Gilbreath. She has chosen to remain private.
The NTSB has the plane in a secure facility, and the final report is not out.