WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. pilot of a missionary plane shot down Friday in Peru said he made an urgent plea for help from Peruvian flight controllers before landing the burning plane in the Amazon River.
"I just called -- screamed -- to the tower that they were killing us and I proceeded to dive (the plane) as fast as I could to the river," pilot Kevin Donaldson said in a USA Today interview published on Wednesday.
Donaldson, said God brought the stricken Cessna 185 down and saved his life. "That was beyond my ability," he told the newspaper. "I feel that the Lord lowered the airplane to the ground."
Missionary Roni Bowers, 35, and her seven-month-old daughter, Charity, were killed when a Peruvian Air Force jet mistook the small aircraft for a drug plane and opened fire. Her husband, Jim Bowers, 38, and their son Cory, 6, escaped the downed plane unharmed. Donaldson was wounded.
Donaldson told USA Today that Bowers first saw the Peruvian jet from this co-pilot's seat but added that he heard nothing on his civilian radio frequency in his plane.
Five minutes later, their plane was fired on and began its fiery plunge into the Amazon River, Donaldson was quoted as saying.
"We just wanted to get away from the flames and hoped that the plane would flip over so the flames would go out," Donaldson told USA Today.
Donaldson told the newspaper he managed to keep the Bowers' young son afloat as the father struggled to keep this bodies of his wife and daughter afloat.
"We cried out literally to God to save us," Donaldson told USA today.