GRAND FORKS, N.D. — A University of North Dakota professor and his brother, who had to ditch a single-engine plane in Utah, say they plan to stay in touch with their "angel" rescuers.

"These were just amazing young people whose only thoughts were not of themselves but making us comfortable," said John Bridewell, a flight instructor and aviation professor.

Bridewell has returned to Grand Forks from a Utah hospital. His brother, Duncan, a retired Air Force colonel, was to be released Sunday from a hospital at Utah's Hill Air Force Base.

Both suffered broken ankles and other injuries July 6 in Desolation Canyon on the Green River.

John Bridewell had picked up his brother at Prescott, Ariz., and was flying to meet two friends for an adventure near the Arctic Circle. But their Piper Cherokee had problems gaining altitude over Desolation Canyon.

"I remember saying to Duncan, 'this doesn't look good,"' Bridewell said.

Bridewell landed on a river bench where grass-covered boulders tore off the plane's landing gear, and the engine caught fire. The brothers crawled away before the fuel tank exploded, but then they got caught up in a grass fire.

A group of rafters came to their aid within 45 minutes.

"I can't tell you what a pretty sight that was," said Bridewell. One woman announced she was an emergency medical technician and had a first-aid kit. "The timing was just unbelievable."

Kim Sawtelle, one of six rafters, splinted their legs with tent poles. Kristin Sebastian, an intensive care nurse, tended to other injuries. Her husband, Alex Sebastian, a wilderness EMT, dialed for help on a satellite phone.

The brothers were carried up a rocky slope to a pair of medical helicopters.