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Jackson County couple survives plane crash in Colombia
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David and Carolina Bellino

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Lisa Stephens of Jefferson talks about finding out about David and Carolina Bellino’s survival in a Monday plane crash off the coast of Colombia.

Neighbors and friends are rejoicing that a Jackson County couple survived a Monday plane crash on a Caribbean resort but are anxiously awaiting further word on their conditions.

"They are strong believers - wonderful, godly people," said their next-door neighbor, Faye Spicer, on Tuesday. "And there is no doubt they were protected."

David and Carolina Bellino, who were on vacation, were among 130 people who survived as the plane they were on crashed while preparing to land in a storm on San Andres, a small island off the coast of Colombia. One person died in the crash.

The Bellinos told morning news shows Tuesday they heard a loud noise and then momentarily lost consciousness.

"I don't know. It was like an explosion. I don't know how to explain it," Carolina Bellino told NBC's "Today" show.

The couple were seated next to the emergency exit over the wing, and when David Bellino regained consciousness, he opened the emergency door, climbed onto the wing and pulled his wife through to escape, he told NBC.

The pair could smell fuel after getting out of the plane and Carolina Bellino, who was afraid there would be an explosion, tried to drag her husband to safety.

"I walked about 15 feet as fast as I could and my legs gave out," David Bellino told NBC. "My wife said,
‘No, we got to go. It's going to blow up."'

The pair were taken to a hospital on San Andres, where the crash happened early Monday. They told NBC they were awaiting transfer to a more advanced hospital in Bogota, Colombia's capital.

Carolina Bellino is seven weeks pregnant and was worried about her baby after the crash.

"I was just like, ‘I lost my baby,'" she told NBC. "But they did the ultrasound and the doctor said, ‘It's like nothing happened to it.'"

David Bellino had cracked vertebrae and couldn't move his legs, but said doctors told him the paralysis would likely be temporary.

Of the 131 people on board the Aires airline Boeing 737 jetliner, a 68-year-old woman, who is believed to have had a heart attack, died in the crash.

Investigators have been interviewing the crew and will be examining the flight data and cockpit voice recorders to piece together the final moments. The plane hit the ground short of the runway and skidded on its belly with its fuselage fracturing and its landing gear and at least one engine ripping off.

Spicer, who shares a driveway with the Bellinos in a small rural neighborhood off Old Pendergrass Road, said she learned about the plane crash in a text message from a mutual friend, Lisa Stephens, who lives about five miles away in Jefferson.

"It was definitely a scary moment," Spicer said. "Once I knew they were OK, my thoughts went to the baby."

Stephens and her husband, Chris, who have watched the
Bellinos' dogs while the couple has been away, found out about the couple on the "Today" show.

"We're just really thankful they're OK," Lisa Stephens said. "... You could definitely hear in Carolina's voice what a horrible nightmare that must have been, but (it is) an amazing miracle at the same time.

"But I know they have a strong faith in God and I know that that obviously has something to play in all of this."

The Bellinos worship at Chestnut Mountain Church on Winder Highway in Flowery Branch.

Cynthia Herndon, children's ministry director at the church, said Carolina Bellino works as a volunteer in her department as well as participates on the church's dance team. David works more "behind the scenes" and serves as a volunteer.

Herndon found out about the crash through a message Carolina Bellino left on her answering machine Monday morning.

"She was requesting prayer from (the church)," Herndon said. "I was in awe of how Jesus spared their life. ... I just simply dropped to my knees and did what she requested - lifting them up in prayer and thanking God he had spared their lives.

"It took me a while to process - it was such devastating news. I was beyond words, somewhat frozen."

Reid Burns, a Chestnut Mountain member, said he heard about the crash from Herndon.

"It was a very scary moment," he said. "David and Carolina have been friends of mine and my wife since they came here."

He said the first time they met the couple, they brought them home for lunch.

"We've been friends ever since," Burns said. "It's scary to know that you have such tight people so far away from home and in a bad situation."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

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