Pilot calls surviving plane crash 'divine intervention'

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OWYHEE COUNTY, Idaho -- A father piloting a plane into an Idaho storm calls surviving a plane crash "divine intervention."

California firefighter and EMT Brian Brown, along with his wife Jayann and their daughter Heather, were stranded over the weekend for hours in Owyhee County.

The Brown family was coming from the Sacramento, California area to visit their other daughter living in Mountain Home.

Brian Brown said he saw a storm brewing and so he landed the aircraft at a small gravel airstrip in Rome, Oregon, with no services. He knew they couldn’t stay there long, so when they saw a break in the storm they loaded up the plane and set their eyes on Idaho.

However, the storm was not done, and as they flew into the mountains of Owyhee County, the family's yellow and white Cessna 172 went down at around 9 p.m Saturday. It would be more than six hours before a dispatcher at the Owyhee County Sheriff’s Office received their call for help.

Injured on a mountainside

Brian Brown spoke to KTVB by phone as he lay in a Boise hospital Monday afternoon recovering from his injuries.

“Basically we had the weather kind of close in on us,” explained Brown.

Brown says an unexpected cold front caused his airplane's wings to ice over, and that factor led to the crash. “It made the wings stall on the airplane, the motor was running fine, all that was perfectly fine,” said Brown.

Flying through mountainous terrain, Brown knew he had to act fast, and he did. “The plane stalled; I put it into a complete nose down position to get a little bit of air speed because I saw what we were going to run into on the other side, and then I basically abruptly pushed the nose back up,” he said.

According to his own explanation, Brown then "belly-flopped" the plane against the mountainside. The impact of the crash was hard on the occupants inside. “It knocked the doors off, I went through the windshield,” said Brown.

Across the plane from him sat his wife Jayann, also in the front.  Brown said she also went through the windshield and lost consciousness for about a minute.

After taking stock of their injuries, the family then huddled inside the plane as temperatures dropped. Brian says at this time the family believed they had no way of contacting help because the airplane's radio and GPS units were not functioning.

'Divine Intervention'

However, after hours stranded and with no communications available to them, the Brown family finally realized they had cellular phone service when Brian's iPhone starting ringing.

“You know the divine intervention there, in that aspect of things, was just incredible,” said Brown.

His daughter, Heather, called 911 for help.

Afterward, an Owyhee County dispatcher worked tirelessly to find the location of the plane, and guide rescue crews to the stranded family.

“You guys stay calm. I will get right back with you, and let you know as soon as I have help headed that way,” the 911 dispatcher told Brown.

Responding personnel encountered 5-foot snow drifts in very challenging terrain. It wasn't until around 6 a.m. on Sunday that search and rescue crews from a variety of agencies, including St. Luke’s Hospital, and the Army National Guard, were able to hoist all three out of the remote location and get them safely to a Boise hospital.

Monday, all three were still in the hospital recovering from the ordeal.

However despite the intense danger and risk they'd gone through, Brian said there were moments he knew he could assure his family that everything was going to turn out alright. He went on to say that their survival was a miracle.

“We were just in bad situation that happens, and I just really wished it hadn't happened to us,” he said.

Brian Brown works as a firefighter and EMT in California and tells KTVB he has been flying since the age of 15.

While this crash has grounded him for awhile, he said he will not stop flying.

Hospital officials told KTVB on Tuesday morning that Brian Brown, his wife and daughter, have all been released.