*UPDATED AT 6:12 p.m. on 7/13/15*
By Don Nelson and Ann McCreary
A 16-year-old girl who was one of three passengers in a small private plane that crashed in the North Cascades on Saturday (July 11) walked out to civilization Monday afternoon, Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers confirmed.
Autumn Veatch, of Bellingham, was picked up by a motorist who saw her by the side of Highway 20 near the Easy Pass trailhead on Monday afternoon, Rogers said. The motorist took Veatch to the Mazama Store and authorities were notified, Rogers said. Veatch was subsequently transported to Three Rivers Hospital in Brewster with what appeared to be non-life threatening injuries suffered in the plane crash, the sheriff said.
Veatch was brought to the Mazama Store at about 2:45 p.m., according to store owner Rick LeDuc.
A store employee asked CB Thomas, who operates the Goat’s Beard Mountain Supplies store next to the Mazama Store, to help because he is trained as a paramedic. Mazama Store employees called 911.
The girl had no “life-threatening injuries” but was “distraught,” Thomas said. “She was shaking and having a hard time describing what happened to her.” She said she had been walking for three days and hadn’t eaten.
“She had burns to her hands and was obviously scraped and bruised,” Thomas said, although it wasn’t clear if the scrapes and bruises were from the plane crash or her hike out.
The girl was hungry and the store employees gave her a sandwich, and helped her make a phone call to her mother.
Veatch said she had followed a creek from the crash site until she encountered a trail, and followed the trail to the highway, according to Rogers.
Thomas said U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer Dave Graves arrived at the store and the girl was “able to identify a creek she followed and its relationship to the Easy Pass Trailhead.” Graves drew a map based on her description.
Aero Methow Rescue Service arrived and determined Veatch was stable, without life-threatening injuries. She was placed on a stretcher and transported by ambulance.
LeDuc commented that the Mazama Store is often the first place to learn of accidents or other problems, such as avalanches, in the North Cascades because it is the first stop on the way down from Washington Pass.
Veatch was a passenger with her step-grandparents, Leland Bowman, 62, and his wife, Sharon, 63, both of Marion, Montana. Their conditions were not known.
The plane, piloted by Leland Bowman, left Kalispell at about 1 p.m. Saturday and was expected to arrive in Lynden, Washington, near the Canadian border in Whatcom County, at 4:05 p.m. It dropped off radar near Omak at around 3:21 p.m. and the last cell phone signal was at about 3:49 p.m., according to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).
The search for the plane began Saturday and by Monday had been narrowed to areas around Mazama, Lost River Airport and Rainy Pass. WSDOT said in a blog posting that Civil Air Patrol officials, who are assisting in the search, used cell phone data to help narrow the search parameters. Earlier Monday, four search planes were launched from Bellingham. A fifth plane was launched from Spokane.
WSDOT said search crews were still looking for the plane Monday afternoon.
The missing plane’s tail number is N8749A. The plane is white and red Beech 35, WSDOT said.
Don Fitzpatrick, a pilot from Mazama, gave up an attempt to fly over the North Cascades from western Washington Saturday afternoon, shortly before Leland Bowman and his two passengers were attempting the same trip from the east. “It was socked in along the crest of the Cascades, thick as soup,” Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick, experienced in the flight across the mountains, typically navigates by the North Cascades Highway, he said. But “the weather was marginal” on his flight back to the Methow Saturday afternoon, and it took him two hours to make a one-hour flight, he said. He and a passenger took off in his single-engine Maule from Lynden, Washington around 1 p.m., and by the time they reached Marblemount “there were no holes, we couldn’t get through,” Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick flew south, gave up an attempt to fly over Stevens Pass, and ended up crossing the mountains at Snoqualmie Pass “between the layers,” landing in Twisp around 3 p.m., he said. Thunderstorms late Saturday afternoon – about the time Bowman’s Beech 35 dropped off the radar near Omak – “spell trouble for airplanes,” Fitzpatrick said.
Reporter Laurelle Walsh also contributed to this story.