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Profile: Lee Purbaugh

Lee Purbaugh was a participant or observer in the following events:

Numerous eyewitnesses see and hear Flight 93 just before it crashes in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
bullet Terry Butler, in Stoystown, sees the plane come out of the clouds, low to the ground. He will later recall: “It was moving like you wouldn’t believe. Next thing I knew, it makes a heck of a sharp right-hand turn.” The plane then appears to be trying to climb to clear a ridge, but it continues to turn to the right and then veers behind a ridge. About a second later it crashes. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/12/2001]
Witnesses Hear the Plane's Engines -
bullet Laura Temyer of Hooversville will recall: “I didn’t see the plane but I heard the plane’s engine. Then I heard a loud thump that echoed off the hills and then I heard the plane’s engine. I heard two more loud thumps and didn’t hear the plane’s engine any more after that.” [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001]
bullet Charles Sturtz, who lives a half-mile from the crash site, will recall seeing the plane heading southeast with its engines running. No smoke can be seen. “It was really roaring, you know, like it was trying to go someplace, I guess,” he will say. [WPXI 11 (Pittsburgh), 9/13/2001]
bullet Michael Merringer, who is two miles from the crash site, will describe, “I heard the engine gun two different times and then I heard a loud bang.” [Associated Press, 9/12/2001]
bullet Tim Lensbouer, who is 300 yards away from the crash site, will recall, “I heard it for 10 or 15 seconds and it sounded like it was going full bore.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/12/2001]
Witnesses See the Plane Flying Upside Down -
bullet Rob Kimmel, who is several miles from the crash site, sees Flight 93 flying overhead, banking hard to the right. It is 200 feet or less off the ground as it crests a hill to the southeast. “I saw the top of the plane, not the bottom,” he will say. [Longman, 2002, pp. 210-211]
bullet Eric Peterson of Lambertsville sees the plane flying overhead unusually low. It seems to be turning end-over-end as it drops out of sight behind a tree line. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/12/2001]
bullet Bob Blair of Stoystown sees the plane spiraling and flying upside down, not much higher than the treetops, before crashing. [Daily American, 9/12/2001]
Plane Is Heard Making Strange Sounds -
bullet An unnamed witness hears two loud bangs before he sees the plane take a downward turn of nearly 90 degrees. [News Channel 5 (Cleveland), 9/11/2001]
bullet Tom Fritz, who is about a quarter-mile from the crash site, hears a sound that “wasn’t quite right,” he will recall, and looks up into the sky. The plane “dropped all of a sudden, like a stone,” going “so fast that you couldn’t even make out what color it was,” he will say. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/12/2001]
bullet Lee Purbaugh, who works at a scrapyard overlooking the crash site, will describe seeing the plane crashing, saying: “There was an incredibly loud rumbling sound and there it was, right there, right above my head—maybe 50 feet up.… I saw it rock from side to side then, suddenly, it dipped and dived, nose first, with a huge explosion, into the ground. I knew immediately that no one could possibly have survived.” [Independent, 8/13/2002]
Plane Is Seen Making a Sudden Plunge -
bullet Linda Shepley hears a loud bang and sees the plane bank to the side. [ABC News, 9/11/2001] She sees the plane wobbling right and left, at a low altitude of roughly 2,500 feet, when suddenly the right wing dips straight down and the plane plunges into the earth. She will say she has an unobstructed view of Flight 93’s final two minutes. [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001]
bullet Kelly Leverknight in Stonycreek Township will recall: “There was no smoke, it just went straight down. I saw the belly of the plane.” The plane is heading east and sounds like it is flying low. [Daily American, 9/12/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 9/12/2001]
bullet Tim Thornsberg, who is working in a strip mine near the crash site, will recall: “It came in low over the trees and started wobbling. Then it just rolled over and was flying upside down for a few seconds… and then it kind of stalled and did a nose dive over the trees.” [WPXI 11 (Pittsburgh), 9/13/2001]
Some people will claim that these witness accounts support the idea that Flight 93 was hit by a missile. [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001] Leverknight, whose home is a couple of miles from the Flight 93 crash site, will note that planes flying over Shanksville are nothing unusual because the area is a “military flight corridor.” [Daily American, 9/12/2001]

Entity Tags: Eric Peterson, Bob Blair, Charles Sturtz, Kelly Leverknight, Linda Shepley, Rob Kimmel, Laura Temyer, Tom Fritz, Michael Merringer, Tim Thornsberg, Terry Butler, Lee Purbaugh, Tim Lensbouer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Looking straight down onto the Flight 93 crash site. North is to the top. Note the impact point north of the road, and the burned trees to the south of it.Looking straight down onto the Flight 93 crash site. North is to the top. Note the impact point north of the road, and the burned trees to the south of it. [Source: FBI]A second plane, described “as a small, white jet with rear engines and no discernible markings,” is seen by at least ten witnesses flying low and in erratic patterns, not much above treetop level, over the crash site within minutes of United Flight 93 crashing. [Independent, 8/13/2002]
bullet Lee Purbaugh: “I didn’t get a good look but it was white and it circled the area about twice and then it flew off over the horizon.” [Mirror, 9/12/2002]
bullet Susan Mcelwain: Less than a minute before the Flight 93 crash rocked the countryside, she sees a small white jet with rear engines and no discernible markings swoop low over her minivan near an intersection and disappear over a hilltop, nearly clipping the tops of trees lining the ridge. [Bergen Record, 9/14/2001] She later adds, “There’s no way I imagined this plane—it was so low it was virtually on top of me. It was white with no markings but it was definitely military, it just had that look. It had two rear engines, a big fin on the back like a spoiler on the back of a car and with two upright fins at the side. I haven’t found one like it on the Internet. It definitely wasn’t one of those executive jets. The FBI came and talked to me and said there was no plane around.… But I saw it and it was there before the crash and it was 40 feet above my head. They did not want my story—nobody here did.” [Mirror, 9/12/2002]
bullet John Fleegle and two work colleagues arrive at the crash site “before any fireman or paramedics or anybody.” According to Fleegle, “When we got there, there was a plane flying up above and he was smart, he flew straight for the sun so you couldn’t look at it and see exactly what type of plane, if it was a fighter or what it was.” However, Fleegle claims the plane “was decent sized. It wasn’t just a little private jet or something like that, from what we could see.” [Lappe and Marshall, 2004, pp. 35-36]
bullet Dennis Decker and/or Rick Chaney, say: “As soon as we looked up [after hearing the Flight 93 crash], we saw a midsized jet flying low and fast. It appeared to make a loop or part of a circle, and then it turned fast and headed out.” Decker and Chaney described the plane as a Learjet type, with engines mounted near the tail and painted white with no identifying markings. “It was a jet plane, and it had to be flying real close when that 757 went down. If I was the FBI, I’d find out who was driving that plane.” [Bergen Record, 9/14/2001]
bullet Kathy Blades, who is staying about quarter of a mile from the impact site, runs outside after the crash and sees a jet, “with sleek back wings and an angled cockpit,” race overhead. [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/18/2001]
bullet Anna Ruth Fisher says, “After the crash, another jet went near over to look.” Her mother, Anna B. Fisher, adds, “We were looking at the smoke cloud when we saw the jets circling up there.” [Kashurba, 2002, pp. 27]
bullet Jim Brandt sees a small plane with no markings stay about one or two minutes over the crash site before leaving. [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/12/2001]
bullet Bob Page sees a large plane circling the crash site for about two or three minutes, before climbing almost vertically into the sky. He cannot see what kind of plane it is or if there are any markings on it, but says, “It sure wasn’t no puddle jumper.” [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/12/2001]
bullet Tom Spinelli: “I saw the white plane. It was flying around all over the place like it was looking for something. I saw it before and after the crash.” [Mirror, 9/12/2002]
The FBI later claims this was a Fairchild Falcon 20 business jet, directed after the crash to fly from 37,000 feet to 5,000 feet and obtain the coordinates for the crash site to help rescuers (see 10:07 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/16/2001] The FBI also says there was a C-130 military cargo aircraft flying at 24,000 feet about 17 miles away (see 10:08 a.m. September 11, 2001), but that plane wasn’t armed and had no role in the crash. [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/16/2001] Note that this is the same C-130 that flies very close to Flight 77 right as that planes crashes into the Pentagon (see 9.36 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Anna B Fisher, Dennis Decker, Anna Ruth Fisher, Bob Page, Susan Mcelwain, Kathy Blades, Federal Bureau of Investigation, John Fleegle, Tom Spinelli, Lee Purbaugh, Jim Brandt, Rick Chaney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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