Miracle Plane Crash Survivor Sailor Gutzler, Surrounded by Relatives, Is 'Being Strong'
How does a little girl begin to mend after surviving the terrifying plane crash that killed her parents and beloved big sister and cousin?
For 7-year-old Sailor Gutzler, healing has started at home.
Sailor, the second grader who walked away from Friday’s crash and miraculously navigated the cold dark woods of Kentucky to get help, is surrounded by relatives as she grieves at home in Nashville, Illinois, family friends tell PEOPLE.
Michele Imrisik visited Sailor after her heartbreaking homecoming from Kuttawa, Kentucky, where the family’s small private plane went down on the flight home from a New Year’s vacation in Key West, Florida. Sailor emerged from the wreckage with only a broken wrist.
“She didn’t have a scratch on her except for a cast on the bottom of her left arm,” Imrisik says in an interview for the new issue of PEOPLE. “She was sitting on the couch between her cousins playing video games.”
Imrisik, a local county-government clerk, says the split-level home was brimming with relatives – many of Sailor’s grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins live in tightknit Nashville, population 3,200 – and all of them were grieving for the family that didn’t make it out of the crash: Sailor’s parents, Marty and Kimberly, her sister Piper, 9, and cousin Sierra Wilder, 14.
“Everyone there was in shock,” says Imrisik.
Sailor’s half-sister Kasie, Kimberly’s grown daughter from her first marriage, was there with her family and caring for Sailor.
“She was very quiet but she was playing and laughing,” says Imrisik. “It’s my understanding that she told someone else she has to be strong for her mom and dad because they would want her to be strong.”
Strong, but not alone. Relatives have already launched a website, www.sailorgutzlerfund.com for memorial donations to “help Sailor obtain the emotional, physical and educational support she will need in the years to come.”
And, as funeral services begin Tuesday afternoon with funeral-home calling hours for Wilder, Sailor can count on lots of homegrown help, too. Says another family friend: “We will all come together to raise this child Everybody will look out for her.”
• With reporting by CAITLIN KEATING
For the full story on Sailor’s miraculous survival and recovery, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday