Bellingham teen survives plane crash, walks for 2 days to get help

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BELLINGHAM, Wash. - A 16-year-old girl walked through the woods after a plane crash in the North Cascades for two days, until a driver spotted her at a trailhead near a rural Washington town Monday afternoon.


Quick Facts:

  • Girl walked into a store claiming to be crash victim
  • Plane was due in Lynden Saturday at 4 p.m.
  • Looking for any cellphone and beacon signals
  • Searching 50 sq mile area near Omak
  • Status of other two people unclear

A driver took Autumn Veatch, 16, to a Mazama store where an employee at the store, who is also an EMT, helped her.

>> Teen girl who survived plane crash in Washington: 5 things to know

>> PHOTOS: Girl walks out woods, says she survived plane crash

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The plane that took off from Kalispell, Montana dropped of the radar near Omak, Washington on Saturday afternoon. 

Autumn  was sent to the hospital after the EMT said she was dehydrated. Her injuries are non-life threatening and minor.

"Our initial information is she sustained no life-threatening injuries and is somewhat dehydrated due to being out in the elements," said Scott Graham, CEO of Three Rivers Hospital.

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<br>Three family members on board

Veatch and her stepgrandparents, Leland and Sharon Bowman, were on board the plane.

"I just, I had a bad feeling about it when they told me what was going on," said David Veatch, the teen's father on Sunday night.

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He said he only found out his daughter was on the plane when he got a call that the plane was missing.

The teen, picked up on Highway 20 near Easy Pass trailhead, gave enough information to lead crews to the general area where the plane is located.

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Serena Lockwood manages the Mazama store, and she says she was just in disbelief when Autumn Veatch told her story about how she survived a plane crash. The teenager said she'd been walking through the forest since Saturday trying to find someone to help her.

"She had like some branches and twigs in her jacket and some scrapes on her face, but I think the main thing was she just seemed in shock," said Lockwood.

On Facebook, Autumn's mother Misty Dawn Bowman wrote, "Autumn made it but the grandparents did not. She is being looked at right now. It felt good to hear her voice. They still have to find the plan [sic] and grandparents."

KIRO 7 is working to confirm with authorities the status of the grandparents.

David Veatch, the father, also wrote on Facebook in a post to Autumn's page: "Autumn's OK!!"

<br>Crews search for plane

Civil Air Patrol pilots headed to the area near Omak in the Cascades to search for a missing plane on Monday morning. They were grounded most of Monday morning due to weather conditions.

"This is a particularly rugged area and right now the weather is not cooperating but we're hoping that it clears up," said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Lustick with the Civil Air Patrol.

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By Monday afternoon, the weather had cleared.  Four planes are taking off from Bellingham and a fifth is launching from Spokane.

Lustick said on Saturday, a red and white Beech 35 plane was supposed to land in Lynden. The last cellphone pings from the three passengers were picked up on Saturday near Omak. Crews have yet to pick up an emergency beacon signal.

It was flying in from Kalispell, Montana.

The plane never arrived, and volunteer pilots started searching near Omak on Sunday, but didn't find anything.

"Since it is rugged with steeps hills lots of trees and canyons, there's kind of a logical flow of how you might fly from Kalispell to Lynden, so we're using that along with information from local pilots in the area on where this aircraft could be," said Lustick.

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<br> Saturday's Timeline

Washington State Department of Transportation provided a timeline of Saturday’s events (All times are in Pacific Daylight Time).

1:01 p.m. – Plane departs Kalispell, Montana, Saturday, July 11, headed for Lynden, Washington.

2:21 p.m. – Plane crosses Idaho/Washington state line, near Newport, Washington

2:21 p.m. – Plane drops off radar near Omak, Washington

2:21 p.m.– Last signal from a plane occupant’s cellphone, roughly near Omak, Washington

4:05 p.m. – Time plane was expected to arrive in Lynden, Washington (based on visual flight plan filed before take-off). Plane did not arrive.

The Federal Aviation Administration and family contacted authorities late Saturday night when the plane did not arrive on schedule. The first search plane launched at 6 a.m. Sunday.