Autumn Veatch: Teen survives plane crash, walks out of wilderness

Autumn Veatch: A 16-year-old girl survived a small plane crash Saturday in Washington state and then hiked through thick forest to reach safety Monday

A 16-year-old girl survived a small plane crash in the rugged mountains of north-central Washington state and then hiked through thick forest to reach safety in what one official called "a miracle." But searchers were still looking for the plane wreckage and her two step-grandparents, who were also on board.

There was no official word on the status of the older couple, identified as Leland and Sharon Bowman of Marion, Montana.

Navy helicopters searched for the wreckage until late Monday night, several hours after fixed wing planes suspended their efforts. The search was to resume Tuesday, weather permitting, said Barbara LaBoe, a Washington state Transportation Department spokeswoman.

David Veatch of Bellingham, the father of survivor Autumn Veatch, told reporters outside a Brewster hospital late Monday his daughter was exhausted but doing remarkably well.

She was able to joke with him about all the survival shows they watched together on television, he said.

"She's just an amazing kid," he said. "There's more to her than she knows."

The teen has no life-threatening injuries but was dehydrated and suffering from a type of treatable muscle tissue breakdown caused by vigorous exercise without food or water, Three Rivers Hospital CEO Scott Graham said. She was kept at the hospital overnight for hydration and rest.

"It's a miracle, no question about it, " Lt. Col. Jeffrey Lustick of the Civil Air Patrol, who said he has spent 30 years in search and rescue, told reporters after the girl was found Monday — two days after the plane left Montana. "Moments of joy like this can be hard to find."

Lustick said he could not confirm any details about the status of the grandparents.

The Beech A-35 left Kalispell, Montana, Saturday afternoon, headed for Lynden, Washington. Leland Bowman was issued a private pilot license in 2011, and the plane, manufactured in 1949, was registered to him, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.

Lustick said he had spoken with Veatch's father, who said his daughter told him the plane crashed and caught fire after flying into a bank of clouds. She remained at the crash site for a day before deciding to hike down, eventually finding a trail and following it to the trailhead on Highway 20.

Rescuers earlier narrowed down a search area based on cellphone data and typical flight patterns. But there was no sign of the aircraft or its occupants until the teen followed a trail to state Route 20, near the east entrance to North Cascades National Park.

A motorist picked her up Monday afternoon and drove her 30 miles east to a general store in Mazama, where employees called 911. The Aero Methow Rescue Service sent a paramedic team to check her out before she was taken to the Brewster hospital.

Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said Monday afternoon that the girl had been "walking for a couple of days." He called her feat "pretty impressive."

Serena Lockwood, the manager at the Mazama Store, said the girl and a motorist came in Monday afternoon, saying she had been in a plane crash.

"She was obviously pretty traumatized," Lockwood said.

The crashed plane crossed the Idaho-Washington border about 2:20 p.m. PDT Saturday, but it dropped off the radar near Omak, Washington, about an hour later, transportation officials said.

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Associated Press writer Phuong Le contributed to this report.

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