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Two Sisters Survive Plane Crash in West Virginia Mountains

September 7, 1987

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) _ Searchers combing rugged woods rescued two sisters Sunday, a day after they survived the crash of a private plane that killed their father and the husband of one of the women, authorities said.

Gloria Hammerstein, 20, and Rebecca Lynn Taylor, 13, waited overnight for help to arrive. Mrs. Hammerstein made a shelter using parts of the plane and found items in their luggage to keep her sister warm, officials said.

She also set her sister’s broken leg.

The crash occurred as the Cessna 172 made its second attempt Saturday to fly from York, Pa., to Elkins. The plane flew into a heavy rainstorm and crashed into the side of a mountain in the fog-cloaked North Fork Mountains of Monongahela National Forest.

Mrs. Hammerstein’s husband, Charles Hammerstein, 41, of Glen Rock, Pa., was killed, as was the sisters’ father, Virgil S. Taylor, 72, of Seven Valleys, Pa., officials said.

Rebecca suffered a broken left leg, a broken nose and a possible skull fracture, said Dr. Don Heindman at Grant Memorial Hospital in Petersburg. She was in very guarded condition after being transferred to Cumberland Memorial Hospital in Cumberland, Md., Heindman said.

Mrs. Hammerstein suffered only minor cuts and bruises, he said.

Once the sisters were located Sunday morning, it took about 7 1/2 hours to take them to the hospital, officials said. The two were carried out of the remote area on stretchers and across the North Fork River to emergency vehicles waiting on a highway, authorities said.

″It was the most rugged, inaccesible place I’ve ever seen in Grant County,″ said state trooper Roger L. Hefner, who participated in the search. ″It was about a mile straight up the face of North Mountain.″

Hammerstein had attempted to fly from York to Elkins earlier in the day but apparently had been forced to turn back because of bad weather, said Maj. Dave Caudill of the West Virginia Civil Air Patrol.

He took off again in the afternoon and was about 15 miles off course when his plane hit the mountain.

″They went right into the side of the mountain,″ Heindman said. ″They hit the trees and that’s the last thing they saw.″

The physician said that the women ″survived because of luck, more than anything else,″ although the fact that they were wearing seatbelts helped them.

At least 50 people searched through the night but were hampered by heavy rain, fog and the steep terrain, Caudill said.

″Last night I wouldn’t have given them a plug nickel to have survived,″ Caudill said.

Civil Air Patrol planes that flew with ″zero visibility″ managed to pinpoint the downed aircraft Sunday morning by honing in on its emergency transmitter, authorities said.

When rescuers reached the crash site, they discovered they had come within 1,000 feet of the plane about 3:00 a.m. The survivors told the search team that they had heard noises then, but were scared to shout for help because they thought the sounds came from bears, Caudill said.

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