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Small plane tragedy creates strong impact

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Firefighters inspect the  site of a small plane accident in the Chicagoland area. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Firefighters inspect the site of a small plane accident in the Chicagoland area. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

On Friday ‍Jan. 2 a small plane carrying five passengers, including the pilot, went down in western Kentucky. The plan had taken off from Key West, Florida and was headed to Mount Vernon, Illinois. CNN News Online reported that the plane carried the Gutzler‍ family.‍

When the Piper PA -34 Aircraft went down it landed upside down. The only one who survived was the young daughter of the family, Sailor Gutzler. According to‍ CNN News Online, the young girl, checked to see if anyone was alive before using a burning piece of the plane to navigate her way, almost a mile, through the woods. She eventually came across the house of Larry Wilkins and explained to him that her family’s plane had crashed and that her family had died. Wilkins then called 911.

According to the FAA, engine problems were reported and shortly after, contact with the plane was lost. Amidst an effort to land in a nearby airport (due to the engine problems) the plan crashed in Lyon county, under 10 miles away from the airport that the plane was attempting to reach.

According to the Aircraft Owner and Pilot Association small plane crashes have been on the rise since 2000. The association also reports that in 2011 there were approximately 444 small plane crashes. Plane crashes seem to be more talked about and more frequent these days. “I feel like I hear about private plane crashes [on the news] more and more often these days,” junior Julia Morgan said.

In Chicago and the surrounding area of Illinois there are many small/private airports; ones similar to the Mount Vernon, Illinois airport that the Gutzler family was headed to. One of the larger of these private airports is Chicago Executive Airport (formerly known as Palwaukee Municipal Airport).

According to the Chicago Executive Airport’s website, around 200,000 planes take off from there every year. While the number of crashes that are specifically related to planes arriving/departing from Chicago Executive Airport, they claim that the number is very minimal. “I don’t know too many people who have flown on small planes, but I also don’t know anyone who has been involved in a small plane accident,” Morgan said.

Whether or not there are actually more safety concerns when it comes to small planes, many people do associate smaller planes with more risk. “I don’t mind flying on commercial planes but I feel like there are more risks when flying on a private plane. I am not sure that I would want to,” junior Annie Barton said.

While the Gutzler family’s tragedy could have been an unavoidable malfunction, and the story of their daughter is a miracle, it does bring up the topic of small plane safety. These high levels of attention brought to this specific plane crash draws attention to the precautions that may be necessary for private plane trips.

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The student news site of John Hersey High School
Small plane tragedy creates strong impact