CBSN

Skier Finds Crash Survivors

Three survivors of a Colorado plane crash were calling cross-country skiier Frank Marics their guardian angel Thursday morning.

CBS Station KCNC-TV in Denver reports that Marics was battling snow and 100-mph winds in the Colorado mountains when he spotted the small plane in trouble. It hugged the treetops for a moment - and then it was gone.

"It was very loud, very close to the tree tops and it was obviously a very stormy, a very windy day," Marics said. "The only thing I could think to myself is, 'This plane is going to crash.' And no sooner did I kind of formulate that thought than I heard the sound of a crash."

The Piper 28 Cherokee went down Wednesday near Rollins Pass, about 40 miles northwest of Denver and not far from the Winter Park ski resort. All three people aboard were injured, none of them seriously.

It took Marics about two hours to get to the wreckage, where he used his cell phone to help authorities pinpoint the site. The pass is at 11,600 feet near the Continental Divide.

"Everyone was in great spirits," said Marics, a 37-year-old county parks worker. "They were reasonably all right, considering the wreckage."

The plane's passengers had used their own cell phone to report the accident before Marics arrived, but high winds prevented aircraft from flying in the area.

"They'd already gotten word out that they'd crashed but they couldn't really describe the location," Marics said by telephone from his home in Boulder. "I was able to convey on the cell phone not where the aircraft was, but which trailhead it was near."

With Marics' help, rescuers on snowmobiles reached the wreckage around 5 p.m., about two hours after the veteran skier got there. The rescue effort took several hours because of bad weather and difficult terrain, said Cherokee Lake, a spokeswoman for the Gilpin County sheriff's office.

The pilot, Gert Eberlein, 52, of Menlo Park, Calif., Rebecca Rudd, 53, of Palo Alto, Calif., and her daughter Natasha Rudd, 22, of Boulder, were treated and released from St. Anthony's Central Hospital, said hospital spokeswoman Beverly Lilly.

She said the trio, flying from Boulder to Steamboat Springs to ski, didn't realize how bad the crash was until they crawled out of the aircraft.

"They think an angel was sitting on their shoulder because they are all in very good condition," Lilly said.