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DICKSON, TN (WSMV) -A Dickson father said he is lucky to be alive and forever in debt to complete strangers after a plane crash last week.

Friends say Dan Smith is an excellent pilot. Last Thursday, he was flying his family and his son's girlfriend back from vacation in Panama City, FL, but they never made it back to Dickson.

"I've been blown up in a number of IEDs in my life," Smith said. "I've never felt a blow like that."

His wife Sharon, son Andy, and Andy's girlfriend, 17-year-old Katie Hargrove, were on board.

"I started to get the feeling my engine wasn't right," Smith said.

Smith said while his gauges didn't show a problem, he made the decision to land at a nearby airport. He said as soon as he started the descent, the engine failed.

"All the sudden I saw what looked like a garden spot behind a house, so I made a real hard turn towards it, flared the plane right towards it," Smith said. "But right at the end, my tail caught a tree."

The plane landed on its nose.

"I rolled out," Smith said. "I couldn't really get up because my legs didn't work and my arm was a flipper at that point. It was bent all the way around here.

"When I came out, I saw my son had the back door open he was crawling but he was dragging Katie out," Smith added. "She was not functional because she had a severe back injury."

As a fire roared, Smith's wife was stuck inside. With his arm broken, Smith said he yelled at his son for help, and went back into the burning plane.

"We kept pulling and I got to where I felt I was coming out of the plane," Smith said. "And a hand reached over and grabbed her. He said, 'Dad, I'm here.' We pulled her out."

Andy was able to come to his mother's rescue with a broken pelvis and neck.

The fight for survival was not over. The family had to get away from the burning plane.

Two men nearby helped pull them up a nearby hill, only seconds before the plane exploded.

"We all actually feel blessed," Smith said.

Smith said his wife should be well enough to leave the hospital on Wednesday. He said everyone is expected to heal from their injuries.

Hargrove suffered a spine fracture. Family members said friends were visiting her Tuesday evening. She was supposed to start her senior year at Dickson County High School last week.

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