How willpower helped teenager survive a plane crash in wilderness

Teenage plane-crash survivor Autumn Veatch says she found the willpower to trek to safety by telling herself 'there's no way I can die without hugging somebody again.'

Newton Goss/AP
Autumn Veatch plays a guitar in an undated photo provided by Ms. Veach's boyfriend Newton Voss. Veatch was a passenger on a plane that crashed on Saturday with two other people on board. She survived and was picked up by a motorist Monday after walking out of the rugged and remote crash site.

The teenaged girl who survived a plane crash in the Washington mountains and spent two nights alone in the woods before finding her way to safety says she tried to pull her step-grandparents from the burning wreckage.

In an interview with NBC News, 16-year-old Autumn Veatch said she burned her hand trying to rescue her step-grandfather Leland Bowman out, but she couldn't save him or his wife Sharon.

The Bowmans were flying Autumn from Montana to Bellingham, Wash., on Saturday with Mr. Leland in control of the small Beechcraft A-35 plane.

Autumn told NBC that before the crash they entered a cloud bank with zero visibility. After that “it was all trees and then it was fire,” with Leland and Sharon trapped in the plane.

She continued that after not being able to help them out, before running for her safety, she told them that she loved them and that “it would be ok.”

“I was just blaming myself because the flight was to take me home and there wasn’t anything I could do,” she said.

Autumn made her way down a steep slope and followed a creek to a river. She then followed the river to a trail and finally to a highway where motorists spotted her Monday and drove her to the nearest store.

The teenager spent two nights alone in the woods.

“I just got this surge of willpower and was like there's no way I can die without hugging somebody again," she said.

After a brief stay in the hospital, Autumn returned home to Bellingham late Tuesday and reunited with friends and family who were waiting for her with balloons and flowers.

Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers told NBC that everyone in the county is “impressed” with Autumn. “She's kinda like a superhero,” he added.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.