There was light traffic and easy driving near Lincoln on Interstate 55 for an O’Fallon man and his son on Wednesday, right up until a plane hit their car.
“Glass shot through the car,” said Jeremy Kampwerth, of O’Fallon, of the surprise impact. He was driving home from a trip to Chicago with his son, John, 9, when their 2016 Chevrolet Malibu was struck from behind and the back window shattered.
He looked back to see John leaning forward from the impact and covering his face and head with his hands. He was screaming. John was in the back passenger-side seat, nearest to where the plane had crashed into the car.
John was badly shaken, Kampwerth said, but safe in his booster seat. Neither was injured in the crash on Wednesday and the Springfield Journal-Register reported that the plane’s pilot was also not injured.
Kampwerth and his son had visited family and seen a Cardinals game in Chicago and had stopped to see Kampwerth’s sister and her 3-week-old baby in Bloomington. On Wednesday, they were nearly to Lincoln in an area of soybean fields on a mostly uneventful drive.
“Approaching Lincoln, I saw an airplane flying low and assumed it was a crop duster,” Kampwerth.
Kampwerth watched the plane over the northbound lanes, and for a split-second thought it was going to land. But it didn’t, and he lost sight of the plane.
“Next thing I know there’s an impact on the back of my vehicle,” Kampwerth said.
“My immediate instinct was to look back at my son, look back to my right, I assumed it was a truck or car coming into my lane ... it felt like 10 seconds and was probably a second.”
He said the plane passed them on the right-hand side and he thought, ‘Oh my God we were hit by a plane.’”
Kampwerth said he did not lose control of his car. The plane may have pushed it forward, but the car stayed in the passing lane until Kampwerth pulled over to the left. The plane appeared to have some damaged landing gear, he said, and upon landing ahead of the Kampwerths, it veered across the median and onto the shoulder on northbound I-55. No other vehicles were damaged.
“He actually brought it down the best he could,” Kampwerth said. “Before I could even think about it, the police were on the scene.”
“When (the pilot) did come out, he was obviously — he was frazzled. I never actually heard him talk, he was just shook.”
Kampwerth said the police asked him to drive to the next exit, a safer spot than the side of the highway. John got to ride in the front seat of a police car, and Kempworth’s wife met them in Lincoln. John rode home with his mom, and Kampwerth drove the Malibu back home to O’Fallon after they thoroughly vacuumed the seat of shattered glass. On Thursday, the Malibu was in the Kampwerth garage, awaiting the insurance process.
Kampwerth didn’t know or want to speculate why pilot William J. Farnsley, 51, of Austin, Indiana, didn’t try to land in a nearby bean field.
“I’m not going to think about his thinking process. He was obviously having a really bad day.”