By Alex Haglund
At approximately 6:30 p.m., Friday evening, Larry Wilkins,71, of Eddyville, Ky., received a knock on his door and opened it to find Sailor Gutzler, 7, of Nashville. She stated that she had been in a plane crash and had hiked to his house from there.
The crash claimed the lives of everyone else on the plane: her father and the pilot, Marty Gutzler, 48; her mother, Kim Gutzler, 46; her cousin, Sierra Gutzler, 14; and her sister, Piper Gutzler, 9. All were from Nashville.
Marty Gutzler had reported engine trouble to air traffic controllers, who had been attempting to direct the plane to an airport. This was at about 5:55 p.m. CST. Authorities got a 911 call from Wilkins approximately 40 minutes later.
Sailor suffered from cuts and bruises and a broken wrist, but was able to remove herself from the wreckage and make her way to Wilkins’ home, about a mile away.
She told Wilkins that she had been in a plane crash and that her mother and father had been killed.
“I had a rookie trooper that was the first one there, he actually just lives down the road,” said Lt. Brent White of the Kentucky State Police. “He got there just ahead of me. Mr. Wilkins was great to her.”
“When I saw her, I could see my little girl,” White continued. “They’re of similar size and disposition and everything. I had one teddy bear left (White said he and other troopers will keep teddy bears to help calm young victims of car crashes.”
“It was a new orange bear and I gave that to her. Then I said something to her that I probably regret saying now,” White went on. “I told her, ‘you hang onto this little teddy bear until I can find your mommy and daddy for you.’”
Sailor also gave first sponders directions to the scene of the crash. The plane was discovered by Sheriff Kent Murphy.
White stated that after all she had been through, he never heard Sailor complain about her injuries and that she gave them landmarks to help find the crash site, including a pond which put searchers in the right direction.
“We were in a pretty big hurry to get out there. We thought, if this little girl could make it, maybe someone else could survive…she told us that she thought that they were all dead, but that she guessed that they could be sleeping or unconscious.”
“She’s a tough little girl,” White said. “Absolutely.”
In addition to being co-owner of Gutzler’s Furniture in Nashville, Marty Gutzler was a licensed commercial pilot and a flight instructor.
A probe on the crash is underway by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
The NTSB held a press conference in Eddyville on Sunday.
NTSB Investigator Heidi Moats called Sailor, “one remarkable young lady.”
Moats also stated that she wished to talk to Sailor about the crash due to the rarity of someone surviving when a small plane goes down.
According to Moats, the NTSB will release a preliminary report in about 10 days.