How 7-Year-Old Plane Crash Survivor Made 'Miracle' Walk to Safety

"No medical or scientific reasoning" for how girl survived crash, experts say.

January 3, 2015, 2:46 PM

— -- For a young girl to be able to walk away from a plane crash that killed everyone else on board, and then make her way through rough, densely wooded terrain at night to find help is being called an incredible miracle.

Medical experts say the 7-year-old was likely driven by adrenaline.

"This is what we call the fight or flight response," said ABC News Senior Medical Contributor Dr. Jennifer Ashton. "That adrenaline, that hormone, clearly there's an element of emotional shock as well as physical shock but if she's able to survive the initial impact without a head injury, and then she's just talking about a five - to 15-minute walk through the dark in a very scary situation, it's incredible."

The crash happened late Friday in Kuttawa, Kentucky, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Disoriented and barefoot, the girl walked roughly a quarter of a mile through the remote wooded area in southwestern Kentucky to the home of Larry Wilkins, who called 911 and tried to get her warm and cleaned up.

Kentucky State Police Lt. Brent White told The Associated Press the girl had to cross two embankments, a hill and a creek bed to get from the site of the crash to Wilkins' house, and the temperatures were below 40 degrees last night.

"She literally fell out of the sky into a dark hole and didn't have anybody but her own will to live and get help for her family," White said. "Absolutely amazing."

Despite what she went through, the girl was coherent and calm when interviewed by authorities, White said.

The girl's parents, Marty Gutzler, 48 and his wife, Kimberly Gutzler, 46; her sister, Piper Gutzler, 9; and, a cousin, Sierra Wilder, 14, were all killed in the crash. They were all from Nashville, Illinois.

PHOTO: This photo from Facebook shows Marty and Kimberly Gutzler, who were killed in a plane crash in Kuttawa, Kentucky, on Jan. 2, 2015.
This photo from Facebook shows Marty and Kimberly Gutzler, who were killed in a plane crash in Kuttawa, Kentucky, on Jan. 2, 2015.

That the girl suffered only non-life threatening injuries was astonishing in itself, officials said. She was treated for a broken wrist and other injuries at Lourdes Hospital in Paducah, Kentucky, and released to a family member Saturday morning, police said.

"There really isn't any medical or scientific reasoning for that," said Ashton. "I mean, we know kids are incredibly resilient, but factors that we do know are associated with survival of a plane crash again, where you're seated and again with any high speed trauma, whether you're restrained or unrestrained, so what that means is if you have a seat belt on or not."

"There's a principle that we use in emergency medicine when there's, let's say, a motor vehicle accident - if there are fatalities at the scene, it gives us an indication of the degree of trauma," Ashton added. "Clearly this is no different."

Ashton said there are naturally concerns about the physical trauma the girl would have experienced in the crash, as well as the emotional impact of what she went through.

"When there are no survivors it tells us the impact, the velocity was significant. We worry about something called deceleration injuries when the internal blood vessels are torn. Obviously you also worry about head trauma, fractures, and then the psychological trauma - this little girl lost her entire family," she said.