BOISE, Idaho - Imagine living through a plane crash and having the video that captured it all. That's just what happened to four men who walked away from a single-engine plane crash in the Idaho wilderness on June 30.
The area where they crashed is known as the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness and it almost lived up to its name.
Leslie Gropp, 70, was taking his son, Tol, who lives in the Treasure Valley, and two friends on a hiking trip in the mountains.
They were taking off from Bruce Meadows Airport in Stanley, where they had landed earlier in the day.
"As we took off I knew that the take-off took a little longer than normal," Tol says. "But the runway was so long that once we got up in the air I wasn't concerned about it."
But the 1947 Stinson 108 four-seater was struggling to gain altitude.
"To be honest, I wasn't concerned until, I still felt even as I saw come into the trees, I thought my dad would pull us out of it and that we'd be OK."
Gropp believes warming temperatures caused an increase in density, making it more difficult for the plane to get adequate lift. He says the plane then hit an air pocket that pushed them down into the trees.
The entire gripping episode was caught by two GoPro cameras that were rolling inside the cockpit at the time of the take-off and crash. The video is posted below.
"It happened so fast, that I remember hitting the trees, and it sounded like rapid fire. Gunfire, it sounded like, but then we were all upside down, seatbelted in, and you can hear in the video my dad asking if everyone is all right."
Tol's father, Leslie, the pilot, suffered the worst of the injuries, including a broken jaw in three places and a broken cheekbone. But Tol believes his father's years of flying experience is why all four men are alive today.
"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."
Doctors say Leslie Gropp will make a full recovery. All of the others on the plane sustained only minor, superficial injuries.
After the crash, two campers rushed to the site within about 15 to 20 minutes, says one of the passengers who uploaded the crash video to YouTube. The campers then went for help and found a retired paramedic and firefighter who came to the aid of the crash victims.
About an hour after that a crew of firefighters were driving through the area and somebody flagged them down. The fire crew cut down trees so a life flight helicopter could land.
"We really appreciated everyone's help and effort. We feel very blessed to have had such great people respond so quickly," says the uploader.
Gropp says he hasn't been on any kind of plane since the accident, but hasn't ruled out future flights.
Although he's not sure his next destination will be the Idaho backcountry.
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