SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CBS 8) - Doctor Paul Oas is a well-known humanitarian who has helped thousands of orphans around the world. Some people call him an angel of mercy. Now in his eyes, it appears some angels from above have paid him back, sparing him from death in a Santee plane crash.
Del Mar pilot Dr. Paul Oas knows he could have easily been severely injured or even killed as his single engine plane got wrapped up in power lines before slamming onto a Santee street Wednesday morning.
"As soon as I saw the ground coming up to me, I just realized I'm not going to survive this. I knew it," Dr. Oas said.
The trauma therapist, who has been flying for 35 years, had just taken off from Gillespie Field to fly to Ramona to see a friend for lunch when his Plexiglass canopy popped open. The plane started acting like a rollercoaster.
"It started vacillating and oscillating back and forth until it made the plane uncontrollable. It created an air drag that affected the elevators as well as the rudder," Dr. Oas said.
While turning the aircraft around and trying to maintain control, he contacted the airport tower and told them he was coming back.
"The landing gear was low enough in this airplane to contact the cable, which in some ways was a blessing because it took away some of the impetus of the crash," Dr. Oas said.
His headphones blew off and papers began swirling in the cockpit, but he believed he would miss trolley power lines and get to the runway. It didn't happen.
"I had a couple of cracked ribs but I had another x-ray this morning and they will not puncture the lungs, and they say I will get the use of my hand back eventually," Dr. Oas said.
With gasoline streaming by his face and live wires on top of his upside-down plane, Dr. Oas remained calm while rescue crews cut off power and used the Jaws of Life to free him.
He says he believes his lifelong charity work, especially with orphans in Rwanda, has proven to be serendipitous, and that's why he's alive.
"'We are blessed to be a blessing' is my theme, so that's the way I feel, and I just feel I've been given so much," he said.
Besides beating the odds from this plane crash, Dr. Oas is a stage 4 cancer survivor and he also fully recovered from severe mercury poisoning years ago.