Family Escapes Mountain Plane Crash Thanks to An Unexpected Phone Call
“We had cleared the ridgeline and when I scanned the instruments my air speed indicator was reading 110 and it had dropped to 40 in just the snap of a finger.” Brian Brown remembers, “That is when I told the girls, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t think we are going to make it.’ And I told them I loved them and I shoved the nose of the plane down into the canyon.”
Memorial Day 2012, Brian Brown flew his wife Jayann and daughter Heather from Sacramento to Idaho in his Cessna. They were on their way to visit their oldest daughter Tabitha, but half way to their destination a dangerous storm formed around them.
“I could see the weather closing in around us and that’s when I really knew we were in trouble,” he says.
His daughter Heather remembers the flight, “The flight itself started getting more this way and that way, very dramatic left turn, right turn kind of things. It was really scary.”
Brian says, “Because we were so close to the mountains I was trying to stay under the cloud layer but above the mountainous terrain and it left us with this really small margin to be able to fly in.”
“The overall sense of stress was a little bit higher,” says Heather.
As the intensity of the storm increased, Jayann started to pray.
“Jayann had said a prayer of ‘God put your angels on our wings. This is a lot scarier than we thought.’ And we had all said, ‘Amen’ out loud to that,” says Brian.
Moments later, the plane’s engine stalled. Brain pointed the nose of the aircraft down attempting to gain airspeed and regain control. He told his family he loved them.
Heather remembers that moment, “When he said that I closed my eyes I just said, ‘God, I am not ready to go yet. Please protect me and my family.’”
“Right before we hit the bottom I could feel control come back into Lima’s controls.” Brian recalls, “I’d pulled the nose back as abruptly as I could so it raised the nose of the airplane and we were still flying. We hit two trees with the wingtips and then we smacked belly first into the next mountainside. And the whole world went kind of black for us.”
Brian was knocked unconscious on impact. His head hit the windshield and he was bleeding heavily.
“I woke up from the impact and my first thought was ‘Wow, we're alive. Thank God Jayann said that prayer, I had those angels on my wings just like she asked for.’ Then all of a sudden the very next thing I heard was Heather screaming, ‘Momma!’ And when I looked over to toward where Jayann was sitting, Jayann was just basically hanging like a ragdoll. And my heart just sunk. I really thought I had killed Jayann in the crash.”
Heather recalls that moment, “My mom, I thought at first, had died almost instantly because she was very limp, hanging over.”
Brian did what he could to save her life, “I held Jayann’s in line to try and keep her airway open and Heather and I kept calling to her, ‘Stay with us. Stay with us.’ I even gave her a kiss thinking it might be our last one and her eyes kind of started fluttering and she took a gasp of air.”
Jayann recalls the moment she came to, “I do remember waking up long enough to say to Brian and Heather, ‘I’m here. I’m okay.’”
Brian and Jayann both had significant head injuries. Sitting for hours in freezing temperatures--with little hope of rescue--Brian realized there was nothing he could do to save his family.
He says, “I had a lot of hours to reflect on how I was before the crash. Before I would say, ‘well, I was in control.’ My years in the fire service that was my position was, again, in control. As that whole night progressed it was very obvious, Who really is in control. You know, it wasn't me at all.”
As Brian released their situation to God something amazing happened. Around midnight their cell phone lit up the cabin with an incoming call from Tabitha.
“We had just gasped, ‘a phone!’” says Brian. “Because we didn’t even realize we had them anymore. The phones went flying through the wreckage and here we are deep in this mountain canyon and we have this rouge signal that is working.”
They missed Tabitha’s call but Heather immediately called 9-1-1.
“It was just a miracle that we even got cell service that I was able to connect through. It was a first try.” Says Heather, “I dialed the number and it rang. ‘Oh my goodness! Thank You, Lord.’”
911 operators recorded the call. “Wade County 9-1-1 What’s your emergency?”
“I’m in an airplane and I crashed and I’m in the mountains.” Heather responded.
A rescue plan was quickly launched to find the tiny plane somewhere in the mountains of Idaho. Just before sunrise Brian heard a search helicopter flying nearby. He used a flash and strobe app on his phone to signal the rescuers. A few hours later they were hoisted into helicopters and flown off the mountain.
Brian remembers, “I did this as a rescuer for over 25 years and I always had answers for things that happened, but God was there so obvious because there were things happening throughout this whole thing that I knew had no good earthly explanation at this point. God put all the right people with the right skills in the right place with the right time.”
Jayann agrees that God was with them, “Miracles! Miracles! Miracles! There’s no way that you can explain any of this without seeing the hand of God in it. It’s just all over the place.”
A few hours later they were hoisted into helicopters and flown off the mountain.
The Browns are thankful God answered their prayers that night. And for the peace a relationship with Christ gives in the midst of facing death.
Jayann says, “People ask me all the time, ‘Weren't you scared? Were you terrified?’ No, I really wasn't because as much as I didn’t want to die I knew where I was going to be if I did die and I was all right with that. I guess it’s just that comfort that you get when you know where your heart is and where your soul is and where you're going to spend eternity.”
Heather says, “I’m very blessed that both of my parents are still here with me. I just I don’t know what I would do without either one of my parents.”
Brian wrote a book detailing the events surrounding their miraculous survival called "Rescued."
“Rescued has a couple of different meanings. You know, one the obvious. You know, that we were rescued off the side of a mountain after surviving that plane crash. But it really rescued my soul too.” Brian says, ”It took that major rap on the head, flying through the windshield, all those sorts of things to just wake me up and really make me see God and realize that I'm not in control and that I need to give those problems away to Him and let Him help me. Let Him continue to help me and rescue me throughout the rest of my life.”