Pilot reported engine trouble before Kentucky plane crash that little girl survived

Pilot in fatal Kentucky crash had asked for guidance to nearest airport because of engine problems

The pilot of a twin-engine plane flying over Kentucky earlier this month reported losing power in the right engine and losing sight of the airport shortly before a crash that killed all on board except a 7-year-old girl, according to a preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board on Friday.

Marty Gutzler was flying with his family on Jan. 2, when he contacted air traffic control at 5:50 p.m. and asked for guidance to the nearest airport because of "problems" with both engines. He was instructed to land at Kentucky Dam State Park airport, 11 miles west of his position.

Gutzler said he had the airport in sight and that the right engine had stopped. His last contact with controllers was to report that he had lost sight of the airport, the report said.

The Piper PA-34-200T landed upside down in a wooded swath of rural Kuttawa, Ky., in Lyon County. The crash killed Gutzler, his wife, Kimberly Gutzler, 46, his daughter Piper, 9, and her cousin Sierra Wilder, 14. Gutzler's 7-year-old daughter, Sailor, was the only survivor. They were flying to Illinois from Tallahassee, Fla. 

Sailor managed to free herself from the plane, which came down about six miles east of the airport where controllers had instructed her father to land. She trekked shoeless through brambles, ditches and fallen hickory trees, searching for help for her family.

When she arrived at a nearby home, the owner put her on the couch and called 911. Police arrived 10 minutes later with an ambulance to treat her injuries.

"She is one remarkable young lady," NTSB investigator Heidi Moats said Jan. 4, the day the NTSB investigation began.

Gutzler held a commercial pilot certificate, as well as a flight instructor certificate. As of last February, he had reported 2,300 hours of total flight experience, with 50 in the previous six months, the report said.

The most recent annual inspection of the plane was performed last March.

Gutzler had filed a flight plan prior to his departure, but there's no evidence he received a weather briefing, the report said. There were weather advisories in effect around the time of the accident, according to the report.

Copyright © 2018, Los Angeles Times


4:03 p.m.: This post was updated with details about the last inspection of the plane

This story was originally published at 3:23 p.m.

EDITION: California | U.S. & World