updated 2/20/2005 10:14:20 PM ET 2005-02-21T03:14:20

Rescuers trudged through waist-deep snow to the site of a plane crash in a Colorado canyon, expecting to find bodies or serious injured passengers.

Instead, they found the pilot, sitting outside a snow shelter he had built and named “Motel 6.”

Scott Thurner, 57, was the only person aboard the Cessna when it crashed Wednesday. He survived the accident with only scrapes and bruises.

Thurner then dug a shelter in a snow bank and used a door from the twisted wreckage of his plane for a roof. He started a fire with papers from his briefcase and donned all the ski clothes in his suitcase.

Rescuers who surveyed the wrecked aircraft were amazed to find Thurner alive.

“It looked just like if you put a can on the ground and stomped the thing. I can’t even describe the carnage of that plane,” said Troy Wallace, a member of the search-and-rescue team.

The team located Thurner by following signals from the plane’s emergency beacon. Thurner pulled the device from the plane and fashioned a makeshift antenna. A military satellite picked up the signals before Thurner shut it down to conserve batteries.

The Montrose County sheriff launched a search that culminated in Thurner’s rescue Thursday. He had been flying from Laughlin, Nev., to Paonia, Colo., to visit a son.

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