Federal investigators hope that Sailor Gutzler, the seven-year-old lone survivor of a plane crash, will be able to offer clues as to what may have led to the accident. The Piper PA-34 plane went down in western Kentucky, killing four people but sparing the life of the young girl, who managed to extricate herself from the wreckage of the downed plane and use the burning wing to light a stick for use as a torch before walking almost a mile in search of help, despite her broken bones and other injuries.
The remnants of the plane are being relocated from the Kentucky crash site in order to allow the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to investigate the wreck for signs of what may have caused the crash. A preliminary report will be available in approximately 10 days , according to Heidi Moats, investigator with the NTSB. Moats offered no possibilities to explain why the plane might have gone down.
Speaking in Eddyville, Kentucky, Moats praised the seven-year-old survivor from Nashville, Illinois, calling her “remarkable.” Although the little girl lost her father, 48-year-old Marty Gutzler; her mother, 46-year-old Kimberly Gutzler; her sister, nine-year-old Piper Gutzler; and her cousin, fourteen-year-old Sierra Wilder when the plane went down, Moats hopes that she will be able to assist in the investigation.
When Sailor appeared bleeding at what was miraculously the closest house to the crash sight, she was dressed only in a short-sleeved shirt. She had traveled through thick Kentucky woods in temperatures reaching freezing, and at one point found herself having to wade across a stream. Somehow, the little girl managed to travel in exactly the right direction to find the nearest residence, which belonged to Larry Wilkins, 71.
Wilkins found a crying, blood-covered Sailor on his doorstep with no shoes and clad in light clothing. She told him that her parents had died, that “she had been in a plane crash, and the plane was upside down.” Wilkins phoned police.
Upon arriving at the site of the crash, Wade White, Lyon County Judge executive, found Sailor to be alert and even able to send emergency responders who were searching for the plane in the correct direction. All bodies were recovered and have been transported to Louisville, Kentucky, to undergo autopsies.
What investigators know at this point is that Marty Gutzler had been piloting the plane when he reported to air traffic controllers that he was having engine trouble. Controllers, who attempted to direct Gutzler to a nearby Kentucky airport located about 6 miles from the scene of the crash, lost contact with the plane at approximately 5:55 p.m. CST. The phone call from Wilkins was placed approximately 40 minutes later.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported on Friday that the plane had originated in the Tallahassee Regional Airport in Florida and was headed to Mount Vernon, Illinois. According to Sailor, her family had been in Key West, Florida. Marty Gutzler is listed as a flight instructor as well as a licensed commercial pilot on the FAA website. Family members credit Gutzler with teaching Sailor the survivor skills she eventually put to use to find her way to safety.
Speaking through spokesman Kent Plotner, the Gutzler family is asking for privacy and prayers – especially for Sailor. The Sailor Gutzler Fund, has been set up by the family to raise money in order to assist Sailor with any necessary physical and emotional support as well as to help pay for her education. Plotner said many websites have been created which claim to be receiving donations to help Sailor, but the family’s site at sailorgutzler.com is the only official website.
By Jennifer Pfalz