Relatives told NBC News that 7-year-old Sailor Gutzler, who walked away from a Kentucky plane crash that killed four family members, used survival skills learned from her father to make her way safely to a home nearly a mile away from the crash site.
“Her father, Marty Gutzler, was a flight instructor. A pilot for 30 years who had taught his kids survival skills. Sailor had apparently paid close attention because relatives say she used the plane’s burning wing to light a branch to find her way out of the dark woods,” NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez reported.
The second grader, who had a broken bone in her wrist, freed herself from the plane that came to rest upside-down in a densely wooded area, wearing shorts and a t-shirt and missing her shoes and one sock. Although she was unable to light the torch, she managed to make her way through nearly a mile of dense forest as she tried to find help for her family.
“She’s in a place she doesn’t see any lights. She walked through thorns, briars, a 12-foot ditch, a creek bed, and continues to walk in that environment with no shoes on until she sees a light in a house,” said Lt. Brent White of the Kentucky State Police. “To say it’s a miracle is an understatement.”
Forty minutes after air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane, police received a call from Larry Wilkins, who said a little girl had appeared on his doorstep “dressed for Florida” in the frigid 38-degree temperatures, saying that her family had been killed in a plane crash.
“She indicated to us that she believed her family was deceased but that she hoped they were just sleeping,” Lt. White said. “I was literally just struck by how calm she was able to be and the ability for her to give us this information.”
The family was returning home to Nashville, Illinois, after a Florida vacation. Sailor was treated and released from the hospital the next morning.
Family spokesman Kent Plotner asked for prayers for the family, especially for Sailor. “We are devastated by this loss, but are confident that they rest in God’s loving arms,” he said in a statement.