Woman’s Arm Is Severed by Propeller

A woman’s arm was severed when she stumbled into the propeller of a small plane taxied by her husband Sunday at Gillespie Field in El Cajon.

Margaret Napier, 39, was rushed to UC San Diego Medical Center, where surgeons were still working hours after the 12:30 p.m. accident in an effort to reattach the severed limb.

Napier and her husband, Russell, had planned a pleasure flight for Sunday afternoon, but at the last minute the woman decided not to go along, according to Lt. Bob Lein of the El Cajon police.

She returned to the car, but realized she had left her purse in the passenger’s seat of the plane. Napier began running after the aircraft as her husband taxied toward the runway, Lein said.


After catching up to the slowly moving plane, Napier began pounding on the pilot’s window to get her husband’s attention. He braked to a halt but the woman continued forward and fell into the propeller of the single-engine plane.

The prop caught her arm just below the shoulder blade and also tore off two fingers and a part of the palm on the severed limb, Lein said.

About two minutes after the freak accident, a LifeFlight helicopter stationed at Gillespie Field was rushing Napier to the medical center.

Meanwhile, El Cajon paramedics quickly retrieved her severed arm and other parts and packed them in ice, the traditional practice when reconstructive surgery in anticipated.


As Napier was readied for emergency surgery, the LifeFlight helicopter returned to get the limbs and rush them back to the hospital. Nearly 10 hours after the incident, Napier was still in surgery.

Lein said the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the accident.