A 14-year-old girl crawled away from the burning wreckage of a small plane and waited 15 hours near the bodies of four family members for a rescue squad to find her, authorities said.
"That little girl - she's real lucky just to be alive," Lumpkin County Sheriff Randy Pruitt said Sunday.The girl, hospitalized in serious condition with a broken shoulder, was found shortly after 12:30 a.m. Sunday, covered with leaves to keep warm in the mountain cold. She was clad in a T-shirt and shorts.
"She was calling out for help and it was real faint in the background," said 1st Lt. David White of the Civil Air Patrol in Atlanta. "We heard it off in the distance. We didn't think we were hearing anything at all."
White said the girl was coherent despite her ordeal but was overcome with grief over the deaths of her mother, stepfather, older sister and younger cousin.
"She said, `I should have died with them,"' he said.
Neither the girl nor the victims was immediately identified.
The girl said her stepfather lost control of the single-engine Beechcraft on a flight from Griffin to Dahlonega and it crashed around 9 a.m. Saturday near the top of Gooch Mountain, about a mile north of the Lumpkin County airport.
The plane caught fire on impact, she said.
"She said she unhooked herself (from her seat belt) and went out the door of the plane," said 1st Lt. David Reed of the CAP.
The girl managed to crawl some 200 yards from the wreckage.
"She told me that she crawled down to the plane after the crash, and she had seen all of the bodies. And then she crawled away again," said White.
A search had been organized about noon Saturday when a homing distress signal was received.
Rescuers discovered the wreckage around 12:30 a.m. Sunday, but did not immediately know there were any survivors until they heard the girl's faint cries.
"She had covered herself with leaves to keep herself dry and warm," said White. "Only her head was showing."