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Olympian survives Michigan plane crash with husband, niece, and puppy

Vancouver Olympics Alpine Skiing
Posted at 1:49 PM, Jul 26, 2022

DETROIT — Four-time Olympian Chirine Njeim has been released from DMC Detroit Receiving Hospital after Sunday's plane crash in Macomb County that injured the 37-year-old and her 44-year-old husband, Ronny Kamal, and their 17-year-old niece, Siena Kamal.

All three were injured when their single-engine Beechcraft A36 crashed shortly after takeoff from Ray Community Airport in Ray Township.

Njeim has represented Lebanon in the Olympic sports of long-distance running and alpine skiing.

Njeim and her husband, who is from Chicago, were visiting relatives in the area along with their niece, who is from Georgia.

The couple's 6-month-old golden retriever puppy, Charlie, was also on board the plane when it crashed from about 100 feet in the air.

Ronny Kamal reportedly said he lost power to the engine moments after lifting the landing gear.

Their injuries included broken bones, lacerations, and burns.

The Macomb County Sheriff's Office investigators said the plane landed in a wooded area when Kamal attempted a controlled crash into an area just off the runway.

The couple's dog Charlie could not be found after the crash.

An extensive search was launched to find the puppy, but she could not be located.

But then, around 3 a.m. Monday, as Penny Faulk was delivering newspapers in the area, she spotted what she thought was a deer walking in front of her vehicle.

Faulk quickly realized it was a puppy.

"I opened up my window, and I said, 'Hey, sweetie. What are you doing out here?' And she came right up to the car, and she was not going to let me leave without her," Faulk told WXYZ.

Faulk later discovered that the puppy had been involved in a plane crash. She said Charlie appeared to be in pretty good shape.

"She was scared, but she was not hurt at all," Faulk said.

Charlie was later reunited with relatives at the Ray Township Fire Department, who took her to a local veterinarian to get checked out.

By Monday afternoon, Njeim and her niece had been released from Detroit Receiving Hospital, but they remained at the hospital with loved ones because her husband was undergoing surgery.

Sarah Ley-Kamal, Siena's mother, posted a picture of the teen smiling and sitting in a hospital bed with her left arm bandaged up.

"Her left hand is 100% covered with second-degree burns, and forearm is 30% covered," Ley-Kamal wrote, adding that her daughter will continue treatment in Georgia.

Ley-Kamal is also one of many people praising the piloting skills of Ronny Kamal.

"I’m thankful for God keeping her wrapped in bubble wrap and his arms, and Uncle Ronny for his quick thinking and pilot skills, getting the plane on the ground in a way that all 3 of them could walk away from."

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the cause of the crash.

Kimberly Craig at WXYZ first reported this story.