A seven-year-old girl who survived a plane crash that killed her parents and two other family members has been released from the hospital, an official has said.
Kentucky State Police Sergeant Dean Patterson also said Federal Aviation Administration officials had arrived at the scene to try to determine why the small Piper PA-34 crashed as it was flying over in rural south-western Kentucky early yesterday evening.
The plane had reported engine trouble and lost contact with air traffic controllers shortly before the 5.55pm local time crash, authorities said.
About a half hour later, a man called in the emergency and told dispatchers that a seven-year-old girl had walked to his home in Kuttawa, Kentucky, and said she had been involved in a plane crash.
The girl had walked nearly a mile (1.6km), through thick piles of brush, in temperatures that were less than 5C before reaching the home of 71-year-old Larry Wilkins.
“I come to the door and there’s a little girl, 7 years old, bloody nose, bloody arms, bloody legs, one sock, no shoes, crying,” Mr Wilkins said.
“She told me that her mom and dad were dead, and she had been in a plane crash and the plane was upside down.”
The girl was treated at Lourdes Hospital in Paducah, Kentucky and released early today, Sgt Patterson said.
“This girl came out of the wreckage herself and found the closest residence and reported the plane crash,” Patterson said. “It’s a miracle in a sense that she survived it, but it’s tragic that four others didn’t.”
Sgt Patterson said the girl was the daughter of the two adults who died in the crash, Marty Gutzler, 48; and his wife, Kimberly Gutzler, 46.
Also killed in the crash were the girl’s sister, Piper Gutzler, 9; and a cousin, Sierra Wilder, 14. All were from Nashville, Illinois. The bodies have been recovered and sent to Louisville for post-mortem examinations.
Neighbours said Marty and Kim Gutzler had lifelong roots in the largely rural southern Illinois town about 50 miles (80km) east of St Louis.
Mr Gutzler ran the furniture store that his father started, and the couple was well-known and well-liked, said neighbour Carla Povolish.
Ms Povolish said the two sisters – the crash’s lone survivor and the one who perished – were together constantly.
“That’s what’s going to be so devastating for the little one,” she said.
The FAA said late yesterday that the plane had taken off from Tallahassee Regional Airport, Florida, and was bound for Mount Vernon, Illinois. Sgt Patterson said the girl who survived indicated the plane had left from Key West, Florida.
Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board also were expected to get to the scene later.
The pastor of a church near the crash site said the area was known for rough terrain and that the conditions yesterday were wet due to persistent rain.
“That area is very rough and hilly, very heavily forested with mature trees,” said the Rev Dean Weber of the Chestnut Oak United Methodist Church in Kuttawa. “Any plane crash in that area is going to be a severe ordeal.”