Thirty-two-year-old Donald Evans noticed that it was pouring rain, and that a lot of his teeth were missing, as he looked at the broken six-seat Cessna 207 where he got thrown out of. Then he noticed that he also broke his back, feet, jaw, and legs.
Donald then heard McKenzie, his eight-year-old daughter, crying somewhere outside the crashed airplane. Donald had no idea that McKenzie’s arm was broken and that her intestines were severed. Donald crawled toward her and they slowly made their way back to the airplane, where 32-year-old pregnant Rosemarie, Donald’s wife, was starting to come to.
Donald saw that their other companions during the flight, the pilot and a schoolteacher named Julia Walker, were both dead.
Donald, Rosemarie, and their children McKenzie and 10-year-old Donnie were on their way to a family vacation during Donald’s 30-day leave from the United States Marine Corps when their single-engine propeller plane slammed into a low mountain 37 miles west of McGrath, Alaska.
When darkness fell, the Evanses tried to stay awake as they were afraid that if they fell asleep they would die of the cold. They sang a children’s poem that went, “These little hands are held in prayer. To thank you God for being there.” It was after 10:45 p.m.
An Air National Guard HC-130 started tracking the fallen Cessna’s emergency locator signal after it left Anchorage at around 1:25 a.m., and was able to fly over the crash site at around 3 a.m. However, clouds in the sky hindered the rescuers from seeing the Cessna. The family heard the plane circling above them.
When morning arrived, Donald was losing hope that the rescuers would ever find them. “We didn’t have much longer.” With that, he found a bag of clementine oranges and tossed one to each of his family members, saying, “Here guys, this will bring a little sunshine into our lives right now.”
It was supposed to be a last meal, Rosemarie said, because after they finished eating, Donald said they could go to sleep if they wanted to. “I guess he just wanted us to be at peace.”
The family didn’t know that at around 9 a.m. the Alaska Air National Guard would hit the ground at around 11:05 a.m. Soon enough, they were being rescued. (Related: Wilderness survival for kids: What to do when you get lost in a forest.)
At the hospital, surgeons took out McKenzie’s appendix and reattached her intestines, and then afterwards performed reconstructive surgery to pull Donnie’s skull back into place. Rosemarie and Donald needed wheelchairs but all was well -- after seven months, Rosemarie was able to give birth to a healthy baby girl who they named Willow for the tree branch that Donald used to save his son, Julia for the teacher who lost her life in the crash, and Grace “because it’s by the grace of God that we’re all here.”
Plane crash facts
Over 40 percent of airplane passengers say that they are afraid that their plane was going to crash. This is not likely; someone would have to take a flight every day for 55,000 years before being involved in a plane crash. A person has a higher chance of dying from a fallen coconut than dying from a plane crash.
Around 325 individuals have lost their lives during 19 airplane crashes worldwide in the year 2016 alone. That might seem like a big number, but more than 2,500 left-handed people die every year from using equipment meant for right-handed people.
Flying is actually one of the safest modes of transportation, despite what Hollywood might want you to think. The odds of a plane crash are one for every 1.2 million flights, with the odds of dying one in 11 million. Compare that with your chances of dying in a vehicular accident: one in 5,000.
And even if your plane crashes, there’s a fairly high chance that you might survive the ordeal. Around 95.7 percent of people who are aboard planes that crashed survive, and even passengers of the most devastating airplane crashes survive at a rate of 76 percent, data from the National Transportation Safety Board showed.
For more stories on the ability of people to triumph over the cruelest of adversaries, visit Survival.news.