(CNN) Search and rescue crews have reached the wreckage of a small plane that went down over the weekend in Washington, finding two bodies in the still-smoldering fuselage from which a third passenger miraculously walked away.
Autumn Veatch, 16, hiked out of the rugged North Cascades Mountains on Monday, two days after the crash, covered in burns and bruises, police said. She had been flying with her grandparents. Authorities declined to release the identities of the recovered bodies pending formal identification.
The plane was found extensively burned when searchers arrived after making their way through the rugged, nearly vertical terrain, according to the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office.
The teen survivor who has been hailed as a “superhero” for making it to safety is still in shock, her friends told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Wednesday.
“I’m not sure that she fully understands all of it at this point, but she’s still processing it,” Sara Esperance said.
The girls said Autumn had never been on such a small plane and she felt turbulence from bad weather.
Autumn and her father frequently watched wilderness shows and that may have been a factor in her fight for survival, her friends said.
“I definitely think it helped her, but I do want to say that she would definitely have survived without those shows because the willpower that that lady has,” Chelsey Clark said.
Autumn’s injuries were not life-threatening, and late Tuesday, she was released from Three Rivers Hospital in Brewster, said hospital spokeswoman Melanie Neddo. Video from CNN affiliate KXLY showed her arriving at her Bellingham, Washington, home.
‘Only one that made it out’
After walking out of the woods, Autumn flagged down a passing motorist, who drove her to a store in Mazama, near the Canadian border. The man called police before handing Autumn the phone.
“So tell me exactly what happened,” the dispatcher told the girl, according to a transcript of the call.
“I was riding from Kalispell, Montana, to Bellingham, Washington, and … well, I don’t know where, but we crashed and I was the only one that made it out,” Autumn said calmly and in a low voice.
“Made it out from the collision?”
“From the plane,” she said.
“Yeah, the only one that survived.”
“Are you injured at all?”
“Yeah, I have a lot of burns on my hands, and I’m … kind of covered in bruises and scratches and stuff.”
Struggling with loss
Autumn was flying with her grandparents, Leland and Sharon Bowman, in the small private plane when it apparently ran into trouble.
Jessica Jerwa, a spokeswoman for the Washington Wing of the Civil Air Patrol, said she called Autumn’s father, David, with news of her survival.
“It was incredible for me to be able to give that information,” she said. “I have a 16-year-old son myself.”
David Veatch had been napping at the time.
“He was still a little sleepy when I told him that Autumn walked out and that she was safe,” Jerwa recalled. “He just sort of paused and took a moment, and then just went, ‘What?'”
Autumn is struggling with the loss, Veatch told CNN affiliate KCPQ.
“These people were really playing the part of grandparents to her and that’s hitting her really hard,” he said.
He added, “I believe in God. … There’s no way I cannot believe in God.”
The 1949 Beech A35 aircraft, registered to Leland Bowman, dropped off the radar near Omak, Washington, just before 3:30 p.m. Saturday, according to authorities. It had taken off from western Montana around 1 p.m.
Hiking for help in cold wilderness
Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers recounted the teen’s story of survival.
“Autumn said they flew out of the clouds, and then flew into the side of a mountain. She was able to get out,” Rogers said.
The girl found a creek and followed it.
“At first she was nervous, she said, and she was scared,” the sheriff told CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront. “She followed it all the way for two days, spending the night along the river there once.”
She eventually found a highway, where she was rescued.
The sheriff told CNN affiliate KCPQ that Autumn’s survival was miraculous.
“It gets cold up there at night, pretty high elevations, so she survived not only the crash, then going through that. I will just tell you this from all of us here — we are just impressed with her, she’s like a kind of superhero.”
Autumn developed rhabdomyolysis, a muscle disorder, during her ordeal, but suffered no life-threatening injuries, said Scott Graham, chief executive of Three Rivers Hospital. Rhabdomyolysis is often caused by an injury that damages skeletal muscle, according to the National Library of Medicine. Fibers from the damaged muscle enter the bloodstream and can cause kidney damage, but recovery is possible with treatment.
She was also extremely dehydrated and exhausted.
Tried to help grandparents
Veatch told the Bellingham Herald that his daughter tried to help her grandparents out of the plane but couldn’t. She waited for rescuers near the crash site for about a day, crying, the newspaper quoted him as saying.
Rogers, the sheriff, said Autumn reached into the aircraft and tried to grab her grandparents to pull them out. That’s how she got burned, he said. The plane was on fire.
The girl drank from a creek, but not too much because she was afraid of getting sick, the sheriff said.
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Lustick of the Civil Air Patrol told KCPQ the searchers were “overjoyed” when they learned Autumn had survived.
“It’s a miracle when you have a plane crash of this type,” he said. “It’s a rarity to have someone come out of this and be able to walk out of a crash scene.”