This young plane crash survivor turned up on a Kentucky man's doorstep

On the evening of January 2, 2015, 71-year-old Larry Wilkins was settling down to watch television when his dachshunds alerted him to someone knocking at the door of his Kuttawa, Kentucky home. When he opened it, he was in for a surprise. "I seen a bloody little girl with tears in her eyes, her lips trembling," he recalled.

She had on one sock and the other foot was bare. Dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, her legs and arms were covered in scratches and she was bleeding.


As she was clearly in need of help, he brought the tearful child inside, got her comfortably settled on the sofa, and fetched a washcloth to clean her wounds. When he asked her what happened, he was stunned to learn that she had been in a plane crash. Looking outside, he didn't see an airplane, nor had he heard anything, but grasping the seriousness of the situation, he called 911 and the two waited 10 minutes before the fire department and police arrived.

Officers soon began piecing together the details of what had transpired.

Seven-year-old Sailor Gutzler and her parents, older sister, and cousin had been on vacation in Key West over New Year's, flown there by her father Marty Gutzler in his Piper PA-34-200T, a twin-engine airplane.

However, on the flight back to Nashville, Illinois, something went wrong with one of the engines and Marty had received permission to land at nearby Kentucky Dam State Airport. He didn't make it. Instead, the plane came down in a thickly wooded area. It crash landed upside down and was on fire. Sailor had been seated in the back seat and suffered a broken wrist but was otherwise unhurt. Having failed to "wake" any of her family, she was able to escape through a 12-inch hole. Fearing them dead, for the next half hour she navigated her way through the woods in the freezing cold and dark until she came upon Larry Wilkins' porch light.

Police spokesman Brent White noted that Wilkins' property was the closest to the crash site and that had the young girl gone in the other direction, the consequences may have been dire given the frigid temperatures of that evening. 

With the information Sailor provided, authorities were able to locate the plane but sadly, her fears proved true and there were no other survivors. It's hard to imagine what this young girl experienced on that fateful evening but she held herself together with incredible composure. “She hardly cried,” Wilkins reported. “Bravest kid I ever seen in my life.”

The Gutzler's community was devastated when they learned of the crash. Sailor was immediately surrounded by loving relatives who saw her through the aftermath of her ordeal. She is now being raised by her half sister and her husband and she has recently become a big sister to their baby girl.

That Sailor not only survived the impact of the crash, but had the remarkable strength of will to escape the airplane and find her way to safety makes her one impressive young girl. She is a ray of hope in what would otherwise be a completely tragic story.




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