By Glenn Pew, Contributing Editor, Video Editor
Partly because they had a cellphone, all three aboard a 1966 Cessna 172 survived a mountainside crash Saturday that left a section of the Cessna's wing in a tree and sent two of the occupants through the windscreen. Pilot Brian Brown, his wife and their youngest daughter were en route from Sacramento to Idaho when Brown says the aircraft encountered icing, lost lift and crashed into a snowy Idaho mountainside. Brown told a local news station that the impact knocked the doors off of the aircraft and sent both him and his wife through the windscreen, briefly knocking his wife unconscious. The aircraft's radio and GPS were broken, it was 9 p.m., they were injured, they were on a mountainside, and it was snowing. Fortunately, they had cellphone service. But it would take them six hours to use it.
The family's first concern after the crash was to take inventory of their injuries. They then sought shelter in the aircraft as temperatures fell. The cellphone only came to mind six hours later when it rang. Unable to find it before the call went to voicemail, Brown's daughter then used it to call 911. A medical helicopter located the crash site early Sunday, but weather and terrain prevented an immediate air rescue. Ground crews reached the family first, before the weather broke and family members were able to be extracted by helicopter, one at a time. From a hospital bed in Boise, Brown said that weather had closed in on the aircraft as it flew from California to Idaho, according to KTVB. Brown said he had first diverted to a small gravel strip in Oregon, but the strip had no services. When he saw a break in the weather he gathered his family and took off again for Idaho. Brown says the aircraft then built up ice en route and stalled. He dove to gain airspeed and when he saw terrain, pulled up and "belly-flopped" into the mountainside.