DAVID, Panama – A 12-year-old U.S. girl who was the sole survivor of a weekend plane crash was airlifted Wednesday to a Panamanian hospital after rescue workers trekked for five hours through remote mountains to reunite her with anxious relatives.
Francesca Lewis, wearing a neck brace and with one arm bandaged, met her family at a hospital in the town of David, capital of the province of Chiriqui, 30 miles east of the crash site.
"She apparently has some fractures, but she is stable and talking," Dr. Manuel de la Cruz said.
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Francesca's mother, father, uncle and sister came down from the United States to care for her.
Earlier Wednesday, her Valerie Lewis told the AP her daughter could walk, but had apparently suffered a broken arm and hypothermia.
"My husband spoke to her by phone this morning," Lewis said. "She sounded good. She just said 'Hi, daddy. See you soon."'
Rescue workers struggled for five hours against heavy rains and high-altitude winds to carry Francesca by stretcher from the site of the plane crash, high on the 3,500-foot, jungle-laden Baru volcano, down to a spot where a helicopter could land, Chiriqui Civil Protection Director Armando Palacios told The Associated Press.
The crash of the Cessna 172, which happened Sunday about 270 miles west of the capital, Panama City, killed Francesca's friend Talia Klein, 13, Klein's father, Michael Klein, 37, of Santa Barbara, California, and Panamanian pilot Edwin Lasso, 23.
Michael Klein was the chief executive officer of Pacificor LLC, a Santa Barbara-based company that manages several hedge funds. He founded two companies in the 1990s before becoming president and CEO of eGroups Inc., which was the world's largest group e-mail communication service. Yahoo Inc. purchased eGroups for $450 million in August 2000 and it is now known as Yahoo Groups.
Aviation authorities said the cause of the crash was not yet known, but Panama's RPC radio reported that witnesses saw the plane flying at a very low altitude around noon Sunday amid buffeting winds.
Michael Klein was on vacation with the two girls at an eco-resort he owns in the Central American nation, according to Kim Klein, his ex-wife and Talia's mother. The three had been scheduled to return to Santa Barbara, California, on Monday, she told the AP from Boquete, Panama, an area close to David, on Tuesday.
Their plane disappeared after departing from Islas Secas off Panama's Pacific coast, heading for the Chiriqui volcano, about 285 miles west of the capital.
A colleague described Klein as a brilliant businessman who skipped high school and graduated from college at age 17.
"One of the most interesting people you could ever speak to on any ... myriad of subjects," Kurt Benjamin, the vice president of business development at Pacificor, told KNBC-TV in Los Angeles. "He's just an unbelievable individual."
Benjamin said Klein was close to his daughter.
"Her father was so proud of her," he said. "She was an amazing, accomplished horseback rider — just an absolute winner. Solid, solid young girl."