Student Pilot Survives Crash, Freezing Night Before Rescue

A student pilot whose plane crashed into a snowy mountainside survived a freezing night by wrapping himself in a tarp, then hiked a mile through waist-deep snow in shorts to meet rescuers, aviation and rescue officials said.

The student, whose name was not released, crashed about 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Billings on Tuesday night and was rescued about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. He was taken to a Billings hospital with hypothermia but did not appear to have any major injuries, said Jon Trapp, one of the pilot's rescuers.

"He ended up hiking quite a ways in his shorts and tennis shoes, in waist-high snow. He was very cold and cut up by the time we found a place to land and could hike into him," said Trapp, assistant coordinator of Carbon County Search and Rescue.

The small plane crashed into a forested slope on Big Pryor Mountain during a solo training flight from Billings to Powell, Wyoming.

The Rocky Mountain College student stayed with the 2006 Piper through the night. With overnight temperatures dropping close to zero, Trapp said, the student wrapped himself in an orange tarp to keep warm, and also was wearing a jacket and wool cap.

Rescuers on the ground had searched for the student through the night, but Trapp said the Federal Aviation Administration initially gave them coordinates that were about eight miles (13 kilometers) off.

The student used a cell phone to call his flight instructor about 9 a.m. to report he survived the crash with a dislocated shoulder and other minor injuries, said Mike Fergus, a spokesman for the FAA's Northwest Mountain Region in Seattle.