u.s. marines

This Marine's a Hero Off-Duty, Too

U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Ryan Sharp
LCpl Kerstin Roberts

Last week, the Marines honored a local staff sergeant who rushed to rescue a girl from a burning plane in 2020.

Staff Sgt. Ryan Sharp, a Vista native who's a quality assurance representative currently assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron 303, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, was awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal last Friday at Camp Pendleton for "actions he took when a plane crashed in a Valley Center neighborhood May 2020."

Along with a handful of other volunteers who were in the neighborhood when the plane came down and caught fire, Sharp rushed to the spot on Palomar Vista Drive where the experimental Cub Crafters EX plane came to a stop. The girl's rescuers were able to get her out of the plane a short time later, and she was taken to Rady Children's Hospital for treatment, according to a sheriff's deputy.

On hand for the ceremony last week were a small group of Marines, including Capt. Traci Willemse, the quality assurance officer for Marine Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron 303, who presented the award to Sharp, whose parents were also on hand at Camp Pendleton for the masked, socially distanced (other than a few handshakes) ceremony.

Staff Sgt. Ryan Sharp (right) and his parents. Photograph by Lance Cpl. Kerstin Roberts

Inside the aircraft that crashed were its pilot, a 57-year-old man, and his 12-year-old niece. The aircraft had been performing a flyby for a birthday and graduation celebration, Valley Center Fire Protection District division chief Jeff Chumbley told NBC 7 last year.

A pilot was killed and the young passenger was hospitalized when a plane crashed in Valley Center. NBC 7's Lauren Coronado has more.

"The day of the accident, the pilot's family was having a get-together at his hangar," according to AviationDB, a data base that compiles accident information from the National Transportation Safety Board. "The pilot took family members on four 20-minute flights. The accident flight, the fifth flight of the day, the pilot planned to take his 12-year old niece to circle over her friend's house."

Sadly, the girl's uncle did not survive the crash, the result of a sudden loss of altitude from a height of approximately 30 feet, according to the NTSB preliminary narrative listed in the accident data base.

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