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'I was the only one who survived': Girl found wandering days after plane crash

She said her step-grandparents had died in the crash.

Autumn Veatch's step-grandparents, Leland and Sharon Bowman
Autumn Veatch's step-grandparents, Leland and Sharon Bowman

A TEENAGE GIRL who went missing after a light plane crash has been found – but her step-grandparents are feared dead.

Autumn Veatch (16) set out with step-grandparents Leland (62) and Sharon Bowman (63) on the plane at 1.01pm from Kalispell in Montana on Saturday 11 July.

They were headed for Lynden, Washingon, and were due to arrive there by 4.05pm. The last signal from the plane was picked up near Omak, Washington at around 3.49pm. The plane never arrived at its destination.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and family contacted authorities when the plane didn’t arrive, and the first search plane was launched at 6pm on the same day. The search has been ongoing since, with search crews focusing on where the last mobile phone signal was picked up near Omak.

Late yesterday, Veatch was found. Associated Press (AP) reports that she was picked up by a driver after she hiked through a thick forest to safety in what a rescuer called a miracle.

AP said Veatch told a 911 dispatcher: “I was the only one that survived”.

Veatch said she had “a lot of burns on my hands, and I’m like kind of covered in bruises and scratches.”

“She said they were flying in the clouds, and in an instant, it opened up and there was the mountain, and they crashed into the trees,” Rogers told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Tuesday.

The sheriff said pilot Leland Bowman was flying too low.

“He tried to pull up, but it was too late,” Rogers said.

Veatch told authorities she stayed at the crash site for a day before deciding to hike down. She eventually found a trail which led her to a highway near the east entrance to North Cascades National Park.

She was taken 30 miles to a store, where employees also called the authorities.

A miracle

Veatch had no life-threatening injuries but was dehydrated and suffering from a treatable muscle tissue breakdown caused by vigorous exercise without food or water, said Scott Graham, CEO of Three Rivers Hospital in Brewster.

“It’s a miracle, no question about it,” Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Lustick of the Civil Air Patrol told reporters, saying he has spent 30 years in search and rescue.

Moments of joy like this can be hard to find.

Her father, David Veatch of Bellingham, told reporters outside the hospital that his daughter was exhausted but doing remarkably well. She was able to joke with him about the survival shows they watched together on television, he said.

She’s just an amazing kid. There’s more to her than she knows.

The Washington State Department of Transport said today:

Crews in both the helicopter and fixed-wing planes will focus on the area near the Easy Pass trail near Mazama in the Methow Valley, based on the route Veatch said she took from the plane.

- Additional reporting AP

Read: Garda appeal as teenage girl goes missing in Cork>

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