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John McCartney and Herald staff | jmccartney@heraldnet.com
Published: Friday, August 10, 2012, 2:27 a.m.

Survivor's video shows harrowing plane crash

BOISE, Idaho -- The survivors of a plane crash can prove just how close they came to death, with a seven-minute video documenting their harrowing experience, including the bloody aftermath.

One passenger, Nathan Williams, said Thursday that he and his friends are "just four guys who are lucky to be alive."

Williams was filming June 30 when the small plane took off from a dirt runway headed toward the mountain resort town of McCall. His video shows the plane flying for several minutes before losing altitude and slamming into the trees below, with the pilot suffering serious injuries.

The video has drawn national attention after being posted online this week.

"It wasn't anything we were trying to film," said Williams, 38, of Boise. "It was a beautiful day and we were just really having fun recording what we were doing."

Williams suffered a concussion in the plane crash and said the pilot, Les Gropp, 70, had a broken jaw, broken ribs and a fractured cheekbone. The two other passengers, Alec Arhets and Gropp's son, Tol, escaped with cuts and bruises, Williams said.

"We all went back to work on Monday," said Williams, a dentist. "Les was really the only one who had some lasting damage, but even he's going to be fine."

The Valley County Sheriff's Department said at the time that the crash occurred late in the afternoon in the Bear Valley area and two people were transported to a hospital.

As of late Thursday, the video of the plane crash had more than 336,000 views and been played more than 1.2 million times on the website LiveLeak, where it was shared a day ago. The video also spread on YouTube and in one instance, was removed from a user's page because it violated the company's policy "on shocking and disgusting content."

The group flew into the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness so they could go hiking, Williams said. After the hike, they were headed to McCall for dinner and while taking off, Williams is shown smiling as he pans his camera to the back of the plane to his fellow passengers.

After about 2 minutes and 40 seconds of footage, the video shows the plane start to lower and then crash. The camera is then blocked by the wreckage and shows a mostly black screen as one of the men is heard moaning and another asks: "Everybody OK?"

Several minutes later, one of the men is shown retrieving the camera, which films the pilot lying on the ground with his head resting on a log and his face and arm covered in blood. His eye appears blackened and the wreckage of the red plane is in the background.

At that point, the group had already attended to Gropp and were waiting for help, said Williams, who is shown leaning down to talk to the pilot.

"Where are you hurt?" Williams asks. "The right side of your face? OK."

The men suspect the plane had a difficult time gaining altitude because of warming temperatures and that after the Stinson 108-3 took off, it hit an air pocket that made it rapidly lose altitude, pushing it down into the trees. Williams posted the video to show friends and family what happened and he was surprised to see the video elicit so much response.

But he also understands why people are intrigued.

"You see how fast something happens, something that's life-threatening," he said. "That's kind of people's worst fears and it kind of came true for us, in a way."

Click here to see the video.
Story tags » Plane crash

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