Lanny told Cline about his mother, how he'd tried to push her to shore until he realized that she was lifeless.

"He wasn't upset. I think he was just in shock," Cline said. "He never really cried or nothing."

He put Lanny in the shower to warm up.

"He couldn't hardly talk, he was so cold," Cline said. "I turned the water on him, then I come out and called 911 and got all of the EMTs and everything over here to come get him."

Soon the rescue teams took over. Cline hadn't even learned Lanny's name before he was flown, by helicopter, to Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury.

Leslie Marsh, Cline's daughter-in-law, called Allison. Within 10 seconds, Marsh said, Allison asked about Lanny's mother.

"She was kind of hysterical some," said Marsh, who lives next door to Cline. "I had to repeat things to her. I think the only thing she really understood was that he was alive."

After midnight, Lance and Allison arrived at the hospital.

Lance recalls: "When I walked in, he just burst into tears. 'Dad, I killed my mother.'"

'We will get better'

Mary's body was found the next morning, floating in weedy, shallow waters off the southern tip of Smith Island, in Virginia. Lanny, who received a verbal report on the autopsy, said it showed that she had three fractured ribs, a broken jaw, a shattered cheekbone and a major wound on her right shin.

Officials at the Maryland State Police, the agency responsible for investigating Mary's death, concluded that the death resulted from the accident. The Virginia office of the chief medical examiner, meanwhile, is waiting for the results of routine toxicology reports before ruling on a cause of death.

Maryland Natural Resources Police searched for the plane for two days, and found it in about 25 feet of water, almost exactly three miles from Cline's home on Rhodes Point. It is waiting to be recovered, once Lanny's insurer approves the expense.

The NTSB, responsible for determining the cause of the crash, cannot move forward until the plane is pulled up from the bay.

"Water recoveries are a tricky thing," said Robert Gretz, the NTSB investigator handling the case. "Sometimes it's up in a couple days; sometimes it takes months."

Once recovered, the Swift's airframe, engine and fuel system will be scrutinized, Gretz said. Continental Motors Inc., which made the engine, has agreed to provide a technician to examine the powerplant.

Mary was cremated and buried in a family plot in Minnesota. Injuries prevented Lanny from attending his mother's burial, but his father and one of her closest friends were present.

Lanny, with one broken vertebra, will be in a back brace for at least three months. He plans to fly again once he has healed.

Within two weeks of the accident, he poured a detailed account of the day into a letter he shared with a few people. He says he didn't want to have to repeat the tale over and over.

"We will get better. We will get through this," Allison said, Lanny nodding by her side, less than three weeks after the crash. "It's just going to take some time. It's still very raw."

steve.kilar@baltsun.com

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