A single-engine plane crash in the Idaho wilderness in late June was captured on video from inside the cockpit, and the harrowing footage has made its way to YouTube.
The plane—a 1947 Stinson 108 four-seater—took off from Bruce Meadows Airport in Stanley, Idaho, at about 2 p.m. June 30 with four passengers aboard: the owner and pilot, 70-year-old Leslie Gropp, his 38-year-old son, Tol, and two of Tol's friends—all returning from a morning hike on a clear, 80-degree day in an area known as No Return Wilderness. The four were headed to McCall, Idaho, a small mountain town where they planned to have dinner.
"I knew that the takeoff took a little longer than normal," Tol Gropp told Boise's KBOI-TV. "But the runway was so long that once we got up in the air I wasn't concerned about it."
The plane struggled to gain altitude after takeoff. According to the National Transportation Safety Board's preliminary crash report, the pilot "flew straight out for about three or four minutes, but the airplane would only ascend to about 60 to 70 feet above the tops of the trees." The plane "started losing altitude and experienced a downdraft," sending it into the trees below.
"It happened so fast that I remember hitting the trees and it sounded like rapid fire," Gropp said. "Gunfire, it sounded like, but then we were all upside down, seat-belted in, and you can hear in the video my dad asking if everyone is all right."
The entire ordeal was captured by two GoPro cameras—including one mounted inside the cockpit. The cameras were left on for several hours, Gropp said, resulting in the gripping footage, edited down to the seven-minute film below.
Leslie Gropp—a retired 31-year veteran of the Idaho Army National Guard—suffered a broken jaw and cheekbone in the crash, but is expected to make a full recovery. Tol and his two friends—copilot Nathan Williams, 41, and Alexander Arhets, also 41—were treated for minor injuries. And all four walked away.
"I honestly believe my dad saved our lives by the way he continued to fly the plane through the trees and making sure he didn't give up or try and pull out of it too hard," Tol told the network.
Two campers who witnessed the crash rushed to the scene and alerted authorities, according to the Idaho Statesman. Firefighters battling wildfires in the area had to cut down several trees so a helicopter could land and airlift the pilot to the hospital.
"[We] feel very lucky to be alive," Tol Gropp wrote on the video's YouTube page.
[Warning: Some of the footage below is graphic in nature.]