Teen survivor talks about tragedy two years after plane crash

Autumn Veatch was 16 years old when the plane she was flying in crashed in the Cascades.

The Bellingham High School student was riding in with her step-grandparents when the plane was missing for three days.

Autumn spent those three days lost in the Cascades before she found her own way out, following a stream downhill and eventually finding a trail.

Her amazing story of survival from the crash in 2015 was inspiring. The bad weather and poor visibility resulted in the plane slamming into a mountain peak.

Autumn was in the back seat of the red and white Beech A35 plane, the front of the plane burst into flames.

Autumn couldn't get her seatbelt off. She pulled up her legs and climbed out from the seat behind her grandfather. She told KIRO 7 she tried to pull him out, but he was too heavy. As the flames spread she had to get away from the plane, and her grandparents died in the fire.

Watch the video below from our 2015 coverage. Scroll down to keep reading. 

After days lost in the Cascades she made her way to the Easy Pass Trailhead. She walked out to Highway 20 and tried to flag down a passing car; no one would stop. She found two hikers who drove her to a store in Mazama. That's where Autumn called 911, the first time anyone heard from the teen.

She was taken to hospital in Brewster. Doctors said she was dehydrated, had scratches and burns on her hands. Her father and friends reunited with her at the hospital in Brewster, arriving with the teen’s favorite food, chicken nuggets.

Now, two years later, KIRO-7 wanted to see how Autumn is now.

“It doesn’t feel real. It doesn’t feel like something like that could have ever happened to me, but it did,” said Autumn Veatch.

Autumn is now 18 years old and still struggling.

"Just since the plane crash, it's hard to be associated with the name Autumn Veatch, because people recognize my name and pry for information and it makes me uncomfortable," Autumn said.

She started using an alias online.

She went back to school and finished her junior year at Bellingham High School, but said it was difficult when classmates and teachers caught her off-guard and asked her about the crash.

Autumn dropped out of school her senior year.

"I'm not really sure how to process this anymore. I'm not sure what kind of closure I could have. My step-grandparents aren't alive anymore, " Autumn said. "I almost died, it was horrible. There's nothing really good that's come of it. I don't know how to feel better about it."

Autumn sat inside a Bellingham coffee shop during her interview with KIRO 7.

She was quiet and thoughtful, and revealed a feisty sense of humor.

"People actually invite me to go hiking -- and I'm like, 'Why would I ever want to do that with you?' I don't want to go camping. I don't want to go hiking. I don't want to do any of that crap," Autumn said, smiling.

She likes music, art and fashion. Autumn said she might want to design clothes in the future, or put her art on clothing.

Autumn does not seek the spotlight, but said she is willing to share her story of survival because she knows it gives hope to other people experiencing hard times.

She worked with author Tara Ellis to write a book about her experience, "Getting Out Alive: The Autumn Veatch Story."

There is talk about the possibility of a movie; Autumn has already talked to a screenwriter.

Autumn stays out of the woods. She said the smell of burning is really a trigger for her, reminding her of the crash.

She is afraid to fly, but does anyway. She said her desire to travel outweighs the fear.

When she was asked if she'd ever get over being afraid, Autumn answered, "I don't know. Hard to say. I don't know if someone fully gets over something like that."

Autumn is working with a new therapist, and is hopeful.

"I just hope I can find peace with myself and be happy and content and just comfortable with who I am," Autumn said. "I haven't quite found that peace yet, but I know I will."