NEW YORK (AP) – Ilana Benhuri remembers the first thing that popped into her mind: “I was dead.”

The 50-year-old mother of three, miraculously still alive, on Friday walked out of a Manhattan hospital where she spent 30 painful days recovering from severe burns suffered when late New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle’s plane smashed nose-first into her 30th floor apartment.

“The explosion threw me up in the air, and it threw me down on the debris,” Benhuri said at a news conference outside New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical Center, recounting her experience. “I was screaming. I could not stop screaming. I did not know what it was.”

Benhuri was the only one of 23 people injured in the crash to be hospitalized. The others, including 14 firefighters, were treated and released.

The minutes before Lidle’s plane struck the Upper East Side high-rise were part of a mundane weekday afternoon. Benhuri was baking an apple pie for her 12-year-old son’s school, and doing some paperwork at a desk in her four-bedroom apartment.

Benhuri did not see the plane approaching her building as it attempted to turn above the East River, but her housekeeper did, and rushed into the room with a warning. Seconds later, Lidle’s plane crashed through the apartment wall, setting off a fireball and explosion.

“At first, I thought I was dead,” Benhuri said.

Benhuri, who suffered burns below her waist, managed to crawl to the door, then to run down the building stairs to safety, accompanied by housekeeper Eveline Reategue who was uninjured. During her month in the hospital after the Oct. 11 crash, Benhuri underwent surgery and multiple skin grafts.

“She’s still in pain,” said her attorney, Bob Sullivan, who added that a lawsuit was likely against Lidle’s estate.

Her apartment at the Bellaire on East 72nd Street was being restored, but Benhuri wasn’t sure if she wanted to continue to live there. The family is staying at an undisclosed Manhattan location, where she headed Friday with her husband, Dr. Parviz Benhuri. He is a cardiologist affiliated with New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical Center.

The Benhuris are Jewish immigrants from Iran, where he attended medical school.

Federal investigators said the inability of the plane’s pilot to turn sharply in a light wind was responsible for the crash of the Cirrus SR20. Lidle and flight instructor Tyler Stanger were both killed in the crash. Authorities have not said whether they could determine which man was at the controls of the doomed plane.


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