McKenzie Morgan, 17, was operating a Cessna 172 aircraft when she became disoriented during her training flight and crashed in an extremely rugged area of the Shoshone National Forest northwest of the abandoned mining town of Kerwin, Park County Sheriff’s spokesman Lance Mathess said in a news release.
Morgan’s flight was part of a multi-city training flight that originated in Laurel, Mont., and included stops in Powell, Cody, Greybull, Fort Smith, and Billings before concluding in Laurel. She was using topographical maps, rivers and creek beds as navigational aids. However, when she departed Greybull, she became disoriented and ended up southwest of Meeteetse.
At 6:05 p.m., the Park County Sheriff’s Office 911 Communications Center received a call from Nathan Coil, 26, of Casper advising the he had just witnessed a plane go down south of Francs Peak. Coil explained that he and his companion, Joshua Alexander, 27, of Douglas were on horseback scouting a herd of elk for the pending hunting season when they witnessed the crash just below them. According to statements from Coil, he immediately began searching for a place where he had cell phone coverage to report the crash while Alexander proceeded to the crash site.
After the crash, Morgan was able to exit the aircraft and walk some distance before meeting up with Alexander. He then placed McKenzie on his horse and walked her out of the backcountry to waiting rescue personnel who were in the process of mobilizing a search.
“Ms. Morgan was one lucky young lady,” said Park County Sheriff Deputy Hayes Randol. “If it had not been for these two hunters being in the right place at the right time, she may still be out there. We’re all extremely relieved that this potentially tragic situation had the best possible outcome.”
Emergency personnel from the Park County Search and Rescue, Meeteetse Fire and first responders, and a West Park ambulance crew treated Morgan for minor injuries once she emerged from the backcountry. She was transported to West Park Hospital as a precaution. The exact extent of her injuries was unknown Wednesday morning.