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Pilot, 3 children survive plane crash in Weber County

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HUNTSVILLE -- A 35-year-old man and three of his children -- ages 2, 7 and 10 -- were able to walk away from a plane crash Wednesday morning in the mountains east of Huntsville.

They were on a flight from Utah to Wyoming when they crash landed their plane in Weber County -- and walked away with only a few scratches and bruises.

The pilot, who flies for the military, is in Utah visiting family for the July 4th holiday. He and his children were headed to Wyoming in the plane to visit his sick father.

It was a very skilled crash landing, because most people don't walk away.

–Capt. Klint Anderson

Wednesday morning he borrowed his brother's Cessna airplane. That brother is a fire captain in Weber County and was involved in the rescue.

"I'm just glad that he's the pilot that he and they were all able to walk away with minor scrapes," Capt. John Meek said.

Weber County sheriff's Capt. Klint Anderson said the plane had taken off from the Morgan County Airport and was headed for Wyoming when, for some reason, it lost power.

But there was no sign of trouble when his brother flew over the Huntsville fire station in Huntsville Wednesday morning.

"In fact, I called him on his cell phone and said, 'I'm off your right wing,'" Meek said. "I watched him fly out of here. He just took off over the hill from us."

Things changed quickly.

Fifteen minutes later, the plane lay on its top in an embankment. On its way down it clipped a tree, and a piece of landing gear broke apart.

Investigators say the plane lost power and the pilot -- with three of his kids on board -- was forced to make a crash landing in rugged and steep terrain.

"He quickly told his children what to do and prepared for a crash landing, and crashed up," Anderson said.

After the crash landing, the pilot determined his children were OK, then tried to call for help on the plane's radio. When that didn't work, he took his cell phone, walked up a small hill and called his brother.

Planes are replaceable, house is replaceable, cars are replaceable. My little brother is not and my nieces and nephews are not.

–Capt. John Meek

"What he told me was that he did everything possible," Meek said. "When he realized he was planning on going, he looked back at the kids and said, 'Start praying.'"

The call triggered a search by ground and by air. It didn't take long for crews to find the plane, which crash landed about 20 miles outside of Huntsville. After the pilot and his family were located, an AirMed helicopter flew them to the Huntsville fire station.

Because the captain was the first person his brother called after the crash, it made this rescue a personal one.

"It was nice to be surrounded by friends who cared as much as I did about the person who was down," Meek said.

They only had bumps and bruises, and everyone involved is thankful for that.

"I've been told that it was a very skilled crash landing, because most people don't walk away," Anderson said. "I looked at one child, and he's got an abrasion on his face, and the injuries were not serious at all."

"Planes are replaceable, house is replaceable, cars are replaceable. My little brother is not and my nieces and nephews are not," Meek said.

According to Meek, there didn't appear to be any mechanical problems with the plane. He says a storm cell came through the area around the same time his brother was in the air, so he thinks the problem may have been weather-related.

The FAA is now investigating the accident, with the help of the Weber County Sheriff's Office.


Story compiled with contributions from Marc Giauque and Sandra Yi.


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