Hours after their plane crashed on a steep and snowy mountainside in Idaho, a Galt firefighter, his wife and their daughter were airlifted to safety by National Guard rescuers on Sunday.
The family was en route from their Wilton home to Mountain Home, Idaho, when their Cessna 172 went down Saturday night, leaving them with head and back injuries, officials said.
Cosumnes Community Services District Fire Capt. Brian Brown, who is stationed at the Old Town Galt fire station on Fifth Street, was on four days leave and due to return to duty on Wednesday, according to Fire Chief Tracey Hansen.
The plane, with his wife Jayann Brown and an adult daughter, crashed in an extremely remote area near Silver City, Idaho, about 50 miles southwest of Boise. They were on their way to visit another daughter in Idaho.
One of them used a cellphone just after midnight Sunday to report that they had survived the crash.
A medical helicopter located the wreckage Sunday morning, but whiteout conditions prevented the aircraft crew from carrying out an immediate rescue, said Col. Tim Marsano of the Idaho National Guard.
Rescuers who walked through 6-foot snowdrifts and on 60-degree slopes reached the crash site first. They wrapped the family members in blankets and built a fire until a military helicopter could lift them out with a hoist.
"It was inhospitable for a landing," Marsano said. "The use of the helicopter was indispensable for this type of rescue operation."
The three were flown one at a time to a landing area about a half-mile from War Eagle Mountain in southwest Idaho's Owyhee County. They were later flown to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, where they remained in stable condition on Monday.
It's unclear what caused the Cessna to go down. Photos taken by rescuers showed significant damage, including a broken front windshield.
The family declined to be interviewed Monday, said hospital spokeswoman Elizabeth Duncan.
Hansen, the Cosumnes chief, said Monday afternoon that she hadn't talked to hospital personnel in Boise, but she believes that the family will return home in the next couple of days. Then Cosumnes personnel will determine when Brown will be able to return to work, Hansen said.
Brown is also deputy chief of operations and training with the nearby volunteer Wilton Fire Protection District.
Wilton Fire Chief Tom Dark was relieved they were in stable condition.
"That was our first concern, how he and the family were doing," said Dark. "Knowing what a good pilot he is, something had to have happened."
Dark said it was probably an unusual experience for Brown, a firefighter for more than two decades, to be on the other end of a rescue.
"When the shoe is on the other foot, it's kind of strange," he said.
News-Sentinel staff writer Ross Farrow contributed to this report.