A seven-year-old Illinois girl was the sole survivor of a small plane crash in Kentucky, which took the lives of both of her parents, as well as her sister and cousin. Bruised and bloodied, the brave girl walked almost a mile until she found a home, and knocked on the door, looking for help.
The plane crash killed her 46-year old mother, Kimberly Gutzler, as well as her father, Marty Gutzler, aged 48. Piper Gutzler, the 11-year-old sister of the girl, died in the crash, as did her 14-year-old cousin, Sierra Wilder. Each of the family members involved in the crash lived in Nashville, Illinois.
"Investigators have learned that the small aircraft which crashed in Lyon county had departed Key West Florida earlier Friday with a destination of Mt. Vernon, IL. NTSB investigators along with the FAA will be arriving at the sight on Saturday," the Kentucky State Police reported on their Facebook page on January 2.
The Piper PA-34-200T twin-engine aircraft in which the family was flying went down near Buckberry Trail near highway KY 810 South. The accident happened at 6:30 p.m. CST on January 2. Following the accident, the young girl, suffering from bruises and lacerations, trekked three-quarters of a mile over rough terrain, in the dark, crossing streams, ditches, and briars. The youngster was dressed for Florida weather, in shorts, and lacking a jacket.
Larry Wilkins, 71, was at home watching television, when the young girl arrived at his home, looking for help. She was wearing a sock on one foot, and was barefoot on the other. She informed the man who opened the door that she had been involved in a plane crash, and her parents were dead.
"She asked if she could stay here. I said, 'Honey, what can I do for you?' I got a wash cloth and cleaned her up. And of course called 911," Wilkins told the press.
She was brought inside, and allowed to rest on a couch while emergency personnel were contacted. The child was then transported to Lourdes Hospital in Paducah for non-life-threatening injuries, before being released to a family member.
Air traffic controllers "lost contact with a Piper PA-34 aircraft ... shortly after the pilot reported engine problems and (said) that he was diverting to the Kentucky Dam State (Park) Airport," Kathleen Bergen, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman, told the press. The plane went down before it reached the airport, crashing 30 miles east of Paducah, Kentucky, less than 10 miles from their destination.
"It is amazing to me that the smallest person in that aircraft was the one that survived," Dean Patterson, Kentucky State Police spokesman, said.
The family were well-known in their community, where residents are shocked over the news.
"The Gutzlers were a wonderful family and wonderful members of our congregation and community," the Reverend Matthew Wietfeldt of Trinity Lutheran Church in Nashville, who has known the family for four years, told reporters.