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Plane Crash Survivor Discusses Night of Crash

Plane Crash Survivor Discusses Night of Crash

Posted - Jan. 3, 2003 at 5:09 p.m.



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News Specialist Sam Penrod reportingOne of the survivors of Wednesday night's small plane crash in Southern Utah is telling his story of what went wrong on that dark and dangerous night.

The two men spent several hours in near-zero temperatures and were badly hurt after Wednesday night's crash.

Today, one of them, an off-duty Utah Highway Patrol trooper, was well enough to describe the crash and what it was like waiting to be rescued.

Trooper Jay Watkins is still in the hospital tonight and has been upgraded to fair condition. And while he says he's still hurting, he's thankful he lived to tell his story of survival.

"A lot of things could have gone wrong that night and I think there was definitely somebody watching over us that night," Watkins says.

When Jay Watkins and Phillip White were flying from Cedar City to Salt Lake City in this small plane Wednesday night, neither had any idea something was wrong.

"All I remember is one minute we're flying and the next minute I'm lying in the snow," Watkins says.

Both Watkins and White had cell phones and called for help. Watkins also called his wife to tell her he was alive.

"When Jay called he was breathing very deeply and so my automatic response was what's wrong, and he said 'I've crashed. I need you to call 9-1-1,' and he said, 'I love you' and that was it," says Shaleen Watkins.

Watkins says he was ejected from the plane, but talked back and forth with White. They gave each other encouragement as they waited to be found.

With the batteries on their cell phones running out, they got another 9-1-1 call off after hearing a civil air patrol plane overhead.

Within minutes a Highway Patrol helicopter found them.

"I've never been so happy in my whole life to see a helicopter, and it was nice up there to see one of my own up there looking for me," Watkins says.

Watkins says he owes his life to the many people who risked their own lives in the dangerous rescue.

"They did a fantastic job in pulling us out and the circumstances there were not the best. They were having a hard time keeping their own footing," Watkins says.

Watkins says his focus now is on Phillip White, who remains in intensive care.

"My instructor ended up getting the worst of it, so my prayers are with him right now for his recovery," he says.

Phillip White is still listed in serious condition tonight. Jay Watkins is expected to remain in the hospital for a few more days.

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