A 7-year-old girl survived a plane crash in Kentucky that killed four people Friday night, and the disoriented little girl walked away from the wreckage and reported the crash to a local resident, authorities said.
The small Piper PA-34 reported engine trouble and lost contact with air traffic controllers as it was flying over the southwestern part of Kentucky at about 5:55 p.m. CST, the FAA said.
About a half hour later, a Lyon County resident called 911 and told dispatchers that a 7-year-old girl had walked to his home and said she had been involved in a plane crash, said Sgt. Dean Patterson of the Kentucky State Police.
“The little girl come to my door. She was bleeding pretty bad, her legs were bleeding, her face had a bloody nose. She was barefoot, only had one sock on,” Larry Wilkins, 71, the resident whose home she went to, told NBC News.
“She told me that her mom and dad were dead, and she was in a plane crash and the plane was upside down. She asked if she could stay here. I said, ‘Honey, what can I do for you?’ I got a washcloth and cleaned her up,” he said. “I felt so sorry for her, tears come to my eyes. Seven years old. Brave little girl.”
“This girl came out of the wreckage herself and found the closest residence and reported the plane crash,” Patterson said. “It’s a miracle in a sense that she survived it, but it’s tragic that four others didn’t.”
The girl, who had walked three-quarters of a mile in the cold and dark through what Wilkins told CNN was “very, very rough territory,” was in emotional distress and taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, Patterson said. At that point, authorities launched a search for the crash site and also confirmed with the FAA that they had received a distress call.
About two hours later, authorities found the crash site in a heavily wooded area near Kentucky Lake, a popular tourist attraction in the state. They discovered four bodies, including the pilot and the three passengers.
The FAA said the plane had taken off from Tallahassee Regional Airport in Florida, and was bound for Mount Vernon, Illinois. Patterson said the girl indicated that the plane had left from Key West, Florida.
Patterson said in a statement that the victims were identified 49-year-old Marty Gutzler; 45-year-old Kimberly Gutzler; their daughter, 9-year-old Piper Gutzler; and her cousin, 14-year-old Sierra Wilder. All four were from Nashville, Illinois. Police say the name of the 7-year-old passenger is being withheld at the request of family.
Patterson said it had been raining in the area for most of Friday. The cause of the crash was under investigation.