‘Tough little girl,’ 7, survives plane crash that killed her family, braves harsh terrain

A 7-year-old girl walked three-quarters of a mile through rugged terrain Friday night — after surviving a plane crash that killed her father, mother, sister, and cousin.

The child had been aboard her family’s Piper PA-34 heading from Key West, Fla., to their home state of Illinois, but the plane crashed in western Kentucky.

Larry Wilkins of Lyon County says the little girl, who was dressed in a light top and shorts for Florida sunshine, reached his front door after braving some of the “toughest land you’ll ever see in your life” barefooted, in the dark.

“That’s one tough little girl, brave little girl,” Wilkins said in an interview with Yahoo News Saturday morning. “I don’t even walk through it in the daylight.”

The child told Wilkins that her mother and father had just died and she was in a plane crash. The wreckage was later found in a wooded area off the Buckberry Trail.

“Her little legs were just cut up all over from briars and [tree] limbs. She had a bloody nose,” Wilkins said. “She was of course crying a little bit. But she was coherent and pretty poised for a 7-year-old girl who had just gotten out of a plane crash.”

Wilkins says he did what anyone would do in that situation: invited her inside, laid her down on his couch, elevated her feet with a pillow, gave her as much comfort as he could, and dialed 911.

Kentucky State Police arrived at his home within 10 minutes and EMT workers quickly followed, he said.

She was transported to a local hospital for non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

Kentucky State Police Sgt. Dean Patterson says she was released to family about 1:15 a.m.

It took police just over two hours to locate the crash site and the four victims inside the plane. The coroner was notified and officers stayed on the scene to make sure no one tampered with it before federal investigators could arrive, Patterson said.

“Before the plane went down, a distress call was sent to Memphis Center stating that they had engine problems,” he told Yahoo News when asked about the cause of the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration will investigate the incident.

Early Saturday morning, Kentucky State Police identified the four victims as Marty Gutzler (father), 49, Kimberly Gutzler (mother), 45, Piper Gutzler (daughter), 9, and Sierra Wilder, 14 (Piper’s cousin). They are all from Nashville, Ill.

Extended family request that the surviving child’s name not be released.


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