It's a story the two Alaskans will carry with them forever: crashing their single-engine plane in Yellowstone National Park's backcountry and walking out to safety before rescuers could reach them.
The two men -- James Betzhold, 61, and Douglas Betzhold, 25, both of Beluga, Alaska -- had just taken off from the Cody, Wyoming, airport Friday afternoon after refueling when their single-engine Piper 180 crashed about 1,500 yards south of the East Entrance Road just inside Yellowstone and not far from Sylvan Pass.
The Park Country (Wyoming) Sheriff's Office 911 Communications Center received the report of an overdue aircraft shortly after midnight. The county's search and rescue unit and Yellowstone rangers began a joint search for the aircraft at first light Saturday morning. Search crews were able to approximate the location of the aircraft through tracking signals from its emergency location transmitter. A Park County search and rescue aircraft located the wreckage shortly before 9 a.m. and was able to confirm that both occupants had survived.
As rescuers began making their way to the site of the crash, both men were spotted walking out of the woods, park officials reported. The two had bruises, lacerations and possible fractures, and were taken to the West Park Hospital in Cody by ambulance.
Why the plane, which was heading for Boise, Idaho, went down hasn't been determined. The investigation has been turned over to the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration, in coordination with the National Park Service.