LINCOLN COUNTY, Mo.- A Lincoln County man walked away without a scratch after crashing his plane into a tree at the Woodland Airstrip Thursday morning. A firefighter is being called a hero after saving the pilot’s life, but he humbly says he was just the right guy for the rescue.
“It was never something I thought I would do,” said Matt conoyer, a firefighter and paramedic with Central County Fire and Rescue.
Thursday morning, Conoyer wasn’t supposed to be at work, but he was filling in and a man in Lincoln County had no idea how grateful he would be for this schedule change.
“My main goal was to get him to the ground as quick as I could,” explained Conoyer.
78-year-old Mike Fleming was flying his Ultralight Firefly around 8:30 Thursday morning when it started having problems.
The Urban Search and Rescue Team was called out and Conoyer’s chief knew he had a man for the job.
“He called me and said ‘Hey did you hear that call go out?’ I said yes sir and he said do you have your stuff to go rescue him? I said coincidentally I have my stuff here at the station,” recalled Conoyer.
Before becoming a firefighter he was a tree trimmer and never thought his two careers would cross paths.
Conoyer got to the scene and made a plan with multiple agencies. Bommarito Automotive Skyfox captured him climbing 60 feet to the pilot.
“I assessed my patient, he said, ‘Hey I’m doing fine, my legs are getting tired.’ I said okay you’re doing great buddy, give me 5 minutes,” explained Conoyer.
He put him in a harness and talked him through it all.
“Even though it sounds funny, you know we’re sitting 60 feet in the air we’re just talking casual about how his day was prior to that point. He said, ‘it was a beautiful day.'”
He brought Fleming down to safety where he talked with paramedics. Miraculously he wasn’t hurt and didn’t need to go to the hospital.
“He got off the stretcher and he and his lovely wife walked away and came and talked to me for a second. He said, ‘I just want to go home.’ I said go home and take a rest Mr. Fleming, you deserve it, you just survived a plane crash,” said Conoyer.
“I happened to miss a little bit, sputtered, and I it finally caught. I thought I was going to make it, oops taller than I thought,” recalled Flemming. “I wasn’t afraid of heights, I never thought about it, I used to climb trees when I was little. This was just a little taller.”
Conoyer says he’s rescued cats, even a former Cardinals pitcher’s remote plane, but never a person.
Conoyer tells me his almost 9-year-old daughter was watching our live stream while he rescued the pilot.