Teen survives plane crash, days alone in woods

Autumn Veatch, 16, couldn‘t tell the 911 operator where in the Washington state wilderness the small plane went down. Somehow, she survived; her grandparents apparently didn‘t.

Veatch, covered in bruises and burns, hiked out of the rugged mountains two days after Saturday‘s crash, police said.

She flagged down a passing motorist, who drove her to a store in Mazama, Washington, near the Canadian border. The man called police before handing Veatch the phone.

"So tell me exactly what happened," the dispatcher told the girl, according to a transcript of the call.

"I was riding from Kalispell, Montana, to Bellingham, Washington, and … well, I don‘t know where, but we crashed and I was the only one that made it out," Veatch said in a low voice.

"Made it out from the collision?"

"From the plane," she said.

"Or survived?"

"Yeah, the only one that survived."

"Are you injured at all?"

"Yeah, I have a lot of burns on my hands, and I‘m … kind of covered in bruises and scratches and stuff."

Veatch was flying with her grandparents, Leland and Sharon Bowman, in a small private plane when it apparently ran into trouble.

Two days later, the teenager managed to make her way out of the wilderness.


"Autumn did not tell us the condition of her grandparents, but it doesn‘t sound good. It doesn‘t sound like they made it," Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers told CNN.

He recounted the teen‘s story of survival.

"Autumn said they flew out of the clouds, and then flew into the side of a mountain. She was able to get out, and she spent the night by a river before hiking to the highway, where she was rescued," Rogers said.

The girl was taken to Three Rivers Hospital in Brewster, and her father, David Veatch, was on his way to pick her up, according to the sheriff.

Rogers told CNN affiliate KCPQ that Autumn‘s survival was miraculous.

"It gets cold up there at night, pretty high elevations, so she survived not only the crash, then going through that. I will just tell you this from all of us here — we are just impressed with her, she‘s like a kind of superhero."

Veatch told reporters outside the hospital that his daughter was "pretty banged up" but doing OK.

"She‘s just an amazing kid," he said, according to CNN affiliate KOMO.

Autumn was dehydrated and developed rhabdomyolysis, a muscle disorder, during her ordeal, but suffered no life-threatening injuries, said Scott Graham, chief executive of Three Rivers Hospital. Rhabdomyolysis is often caused by an injury that damages skeletal muscle, according to the National Library of Medicine. Fibers from the damaged muscle enter the bloodstream and can cause kidney damage.

David Veatch told the Bellingham Herald that his daughter tried to help her grandparents out of the plane but couldn‘t. She waited for rescuers near the crash site for about a day, crying, the newspaper quoted him as saying.

Crews are still looking for the plane and the girl‘s grandparents. The mountainous terrain is complicating the search, but information from Autumn may help first responders find the crash site.

Lt. Col. Jeffrey Lustick, of the Civil Air Patrol, told KCPQ the searchers were "overjoyed" when they learned that Autumn had survived.

"It‘s a miracle when you have a plane crash of this type," he said. "It‘s a rarity to have someone come out of this and be able to walk out of a crash scene."

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