The family of a 12-year-old California girl who survived a plane crash say their daughter spent much of the time before her rescue pinned inside the fuselage under a pile of luggage.
Francesca "Frankie" Lewis was vacationing on a Panamanian island with best friend Talia Klein and Talia's father, Michael Klein. A few minutes after taking off in a Cessna Sunday, the plane crashed into the side of a mountain surrounding the Baru volcano, approximately 270 miles west of the capital, Panama City.
Talia, her father and the pilot were killed. Frankie spent two days on a jungle mountainside in Panama.
Frankie's mother, Valerie, told "Good Morning America" today in an exclusive interview, that Frankie is in stable condition and being treated for hypothermia, contusions and muscle injuries. Valerie said Frankie is "looking better. … She has been cleaned up and she's no longer a forest girl, with leaves and twigs."
Valerie said reports from Panama indicate her daughter's survival was miraculous.
"Frankie was sitting behind [the] pilot and she was upside down. The luggage was on top of her [and] probably saved her life," Valerie said, citing the reports. "When the plane started cartwheeling, the luggage fell on top of her and so that's where she lay pinned for 2½ days and couldn't move."
After two days without food and water in pouring rain and cold temperatures, Frankie was finally found by rescuers. She was dehydrated and hungry but with no broken bones.
Valerie said her daughter's recollection of the accident is spotty. "She hasn't spoken about [the] plane flipping. She doesn't remember [the] crash, but remembers being in fog and seeing trees very close and it seems she was unconscious or in dream kind of condition for a lot of this time," said Valerie.
Samuel Catta, the doctor treating her, said at the moment she doesn't seem to recall the crash. "She lost consciousness, and she only remembers [the plane] falling into a cloud, and then she saw trees." Catta said she will probably remain hospitalized for at least a week.
"She speaks as if it [the accident] was a dream, " Valerie said. " Seeing the wing over her head and thinking they had crashed, thinking she was in her bed at home and then looking for friends and being with friends."
Frankie also spoke with her sister, Rose. Rose said, "I had her talk to me about her dreams. She was willing to talk about all kinds of stuff. She told me about time in Panama before the crash. She would go on an on about dreams and tried to remember what she couldn't."
Rose explained that Talia was the closest friend Frankie ever had. "They were inseparable and loved doing everything together."
"We've heard so many different reports," Valerie said, "but last thing we heard … was that the wing had hit the tree high up on mountain, sheared … off and the plane began flipping across the treetops. The plane was 1,00 feet away from [the] wing and landed upside down in a tree."