Baldwin resident Lancelot Theobald Jr., who survived a plane crash more than 40 years ago, was finally able to personally express his gratitude to the co-pilot who saved his life.
Pilgrim Airlines Flight 458 crashed at 3:10 p.m. on Feb. 21, 1982 on the Scituate Reservoir in Rhode Island with Theobald and 11 other people aboard. There was one fatality among the occupants of the plane.
After surviving the crash, Theobald said his life was immediately changed, believing that he had a greater purpose, and he became driven to find out what that purpose was.
Now, Theobald, who’s an actor, choreographer and author, said he feels he owes the former co-pilot of that plane, Lyle Hogg, for not only saving his life, but making him resilient in life.
“I’ve been able to conquer a lot of things that maybe other would succumb to,” Theobald said. “My work ethic is crazy because I believe there’s an ultimate goal that God wants me to do and part of that is to be a beacon of light.”
In January, Theobald received a message on Facebook seeking survivors of the plane crash to be part of a September dedication ceremony in Rhode Island. Theobald immediately saw this as an opportunity to thank Hogg for saving his life.
“When I spoke at the event, I directed it towards the pilot, and I broke down in front of everybody,” Theobald said. “I never knew what really happened and how much of a brave person that he was.”
Theobald explained that a fire caused the plane to crash-land, and he learned at the ceremony that Hogg was guiding the plane to safety while he was on fire, which ended up saving Theobald’s life, along with nearly all the passengers. The fire started in the cockpit due to a leakage of flammable windshield washer fluid and smoke rapidly spread in the plane. Hogg ended up receiving burns varying from second and third degree. The pilot, Captain Thomas Prinster, who passed away in 2018, received burns that covered 50-70 percent of his body.
When he learned about both the co-pilot and pilot’s bravery, Theobald said he became choked up at the ceremony.
“I was so emotional because if not for them, my parents would not have a son, and my wife would not have her husband,” he said.
On the way to the ceremony, vivid memories of that horrible day came flooding back to him, he said. As he passed by the reservoir where the plane crash-landed, Theobald said he began to feel pressure in his chest.
“All of a sudden, my body started to tighten up,” Theobald said. “And I said, ‘This must be the place that I crashed.’”
During the ceremony, Theobald said he heard various stories of people who helped the survivors on the day of the crash. He added that the entire community came together to pitch in, not just the pilots. One person witnessed the plane crash and she told neighbors, who all rushed to the site of the crash.
“People got off the bridge, risking their lives because it was a frozen reservoir,” Theobald said. “It was the whole town.”
Theobald remembered being driven away in an ambulance, and the doors were flying open while it was on the road. First-responders were rushing to get the survivors to the hospital as quick as possible, he added.
Also at the reunion, Theobald got reacquainted with Sophie, a girl who sat next to him on the ill-fated flight. The plane, which took off from LaGuardia Airport en route to Boston, stopped at Groton, Connecticut, where Sophie joined the flight.
“This lady looks at me and says, ‘Can you watch over my daughter? She’s traveling to Boston and is 9 years old.’” Theobald said. “I said, ‘No problem,’ and I went back to sleep. Next thing I know, the plane is literally like a rollercoaster going straight down and up. The pilot looks like he’s on fire, everybody is hysterically crying. I just held her and told her that everything’s going to be alright.”
Theobald said that he has joined the board of the Bethany House — a safe place for healing and personal growth for women, and women with children, experiencing homelessness — in Baldwin because he felt like that was something he was meant to do. As a result of the courageous work of Hogg and the people living near the reservoir, Theobald said he also wants to positively impact the lives of others.