Aircraft weather warnings for low visibility and possible icing conditions were in effect about the time a light plane crashed Jan. 2 in Western Kentucky, killing all on board except a 7-year-old girl, a new federal report says.
The National Transportation Safety Board's preliminary report says that pilot Marty Gutzler filed an instrument flight plan before taking off from Tallahassee, Fla., that afternoon, but there is no evidence he obtained a weather briefing.
The report became available Friday on the federal agency's website.
Gutzler radioed about 6:50 p.m. on Jan. 2 that he was having trouble with both his engines, later telling ground controllers that his right engine had quit, the report says. The twin-engine Piper Seneca crashed about 10 minutes later in Lyon County at Kuttawa, near Kentucky Lake and the Tennessee line.
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The only survivor was Marty Gutzler's 7-year-old daughter, Sailor, who walked almost a mile through woods and briars without warm clothing in near-freezing temperatures to find help.
According to the NTSB report, Marty Gutzler asked for visual flight headings to the nearest airport after reporting the engine problems. He was directed toward the nearby Kentucky Dam State Park Airport, officials said.
Gutzler replied that he could see the airport, but that his right engine was no longer producing power. After receiving landing clearance, he radioed that he'd lost sight of the airport, the NTSB said.
Communications ended after that, despite several attempts to contact the plane. Radar contract was lost, and the plane was last observed descending about 10 miles west of the state park airport, investigators said.
The crash killed Gutzler; his wife, Kimberly, 45; their daughter, Piper Gutzler, 9; and her cousin, Sierra Wilder, 14.
According to the NTSB, all the victims were strapped in their seats when the plane was found. The right rear seat, with an unbuckled belt, presumably held Sailor, the surviving daughter.
After leaving the crash scene, Sailor saw a distant light and managed to find her way through darkness to the home of Larry Wilkins. Wilkins answered a knock on his door to find the weeping child bleeding from cuts and wearing shorts, one sock and no shoes. He quickly called authorities.
Marty Gutzler held a commercial pilot's certificate with ratings for single- and multi-engine planes, according to the NTSB. He had 2,300 listed hours of total flight time, including 50 hours in the previous six months, the report says. The plane's most recent annual inspection was performed March 16, 2014, the report said.
The plane left Tallahassee Regional Airport about 4 p.m. Jan. 2, bound for Mount Vernon, Ill. The vacationing family was on the way home to Nashville, Ill., a small town near St. Louis.
The downed airplane came to rest upside down and badly damaged, its landing gear retracted, having left behind a 300-foot debris path, the federal report said.
The left engine was separated from its mounts, but was still attached to the wing. The right engine also remained attached. Propellers were separated from the engines, and both propellers were bent back, the report states.
Federal investigators said preliminary checks confirmed that weather forecasts projected instrument flight rules used for low visibility along the entire route of the Piper Seneca's planned flight. Advisories also were in effect for "icing and mountain obscuration conditions" about the time of the crash, the report states.
NTSB said that a flight service company reported that it provided no weather services to Marty Gutzler on the day of the crash.
A final report on such crashes can take as long as a year.