Couple on morning bike ride steps in to help plane crash victims

The heat from the fire was so extreme, the pair couldn't get near the plane to save one victim's life

San Antonio – A couple riding their bikes early Saturday morning are urging people to be prepared to help others, no matter how helpless a situation may be. This call to action comes after a plane crashed on the South Side, killing one and injuring two others.

“We were riding our bikes crossing over 410 South when we see smoke,” said Veronica Salas. “I said, ‘It is a fire!’ He (Michael Urdiales) thought it was a just a plane throwing out smoke but I told him it was a fire.”

The couple decided to get closer to the scene and when they did, they saw the unexpected.

“There was this big guy and he was like, ‘I am burning!’ I looked over and there is another gentlemen sitting on the ground,” Salas said. “They were both blistered up and they both didn’t have any hair. Their hands were crazy. It was all just a traumatic scene. It was like a scary movie because you had these burned people and then you see this fire. The guy is like, ‘Just give me some water!’ So I got my water bottle and I am squeezing as much water out and I tell everybody else standing there to ‘get water please!’”

RELATED: SAPD: One killed, two hospitalized after plane crash on South Side

Urdiales said he didn’t know what could have possibly happened to have caused the injuries he was looking at.

“When we were riding, we didn’t hear anything,” Urdiales said. “We didn’t hear a bang or feel an explosion or nothing, so when I saw the men, I thought they were barbecuing and had accidentally put too much gas in the grill or something.”

The two soon learned that a plane had crashed and there was still another man inside of it.

“It was actually one of the victims who told me there was another man still inside the plane,” said Michael Urdiales, Salas’s boyfriend. “He was bleeding all over his face because he had a head injury but he was able to tell me where the plane was, which was in someone’s backyard.”

Urdiales said he was confused because so many people standing around were not trying to save the man.

“Someone said it in Spanish and was saying the plane was popping and that they thought it was going to explode,” Urdiales said. “I am guessing that is why nobody was back there trying to help. By that time, I didn’t know what I could do to help but I was going to at least try. If there was a possibility of saving him, I was going to try my best.”

He said when he found the plane, it was unrecognizable.

“The wreckage was so bad that it was a miracle the two other men made it out of it,” Urdiales said. “You couldn’t even tell it was plane. All you could see was the tail, so I am trying to vision this plane and I am like, ‘Where the heck could this guy be at?’ I am like, ‘I don’t know where the third person could be in this wreckage,’ and I finally see him and he is like laying on his back. His hand was up and it was melting.”

Urdiales said the heat was so extreme, he couldn’t get near the plane to remove the man’s body from the flames.

“It was a terrible situation to come up on when you finally realize he was gone. I was like, ‘Man, I was just too late to help him,’” Urdiales said. “That is the worst part. You are helpless. Once I saw him it was too late to help him. He was engulfed in fire. The fire was really, really intense.”

They said they believe the crash had happened seven to 10 minutes before they arrived.

“It was a surreal moment the fact that we were just a couple of cyclists who pulled over and saw all of this,” Salas said. “People were parked along the street. They were just parked there looking. We don’t know how long the fire could have been going but what breaks my heart is that no one went back there to help him. We feel like we didn’t do anything because by the time we got there, it was too late.”

Salas said it was a very emotional experience for her.

“Seeing him like that,” Salas said through tears. “He was somebody’s dad, somebody’s husband. He was somebody, you know, and I just hope that as bad as it was and as bad as he died that his soul is somewhere good because what I saw wasn’t good.”

They said first responders soon arrived on scene. They said they hope if another devastating incident such as this were to happen again, more people would step in to help as they did.

“I was just dumbfounded by the number of people who were just standing around not doing anything,” Urdiales said.

“That could have been your family member,” Salas said. “I couldn’t imagine if we could have been there earlier, could someone have helped them sooner. I would just encourage people to help. Be a human and pull over and help instead of looking. That is what you do. I didn’t want to see all that but I did because I wanted to help and that is what being a human being is. Don’t hold back. Help people the best you can do. Even if it seems small, sometimes simply asking them how can you help is helping people.”

RELATED: Texas pilot of small plane dies in crash as he tries to land

About the Authors:

Japhanie Gray joined 10 News as an anchor in March 2022.

Joe Arredondo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.