Breaking News Emails
NASHVILLE, Illinois — A community was rallying Tuesday to help seven-year-old Sailor Gutzler, the sole survivor of a plane crash that killed her parents, sister and cousin.
Friends and neighbors of the family in Nashville, Illinois — population 3,100 — paid tribute to the victims and to the girl who crawled out of the wreckage and scrambled three-quarters of a mile to seek help.
"Sailor will be supported," said Michael Brink, the superintendent of Nashville School District 49. "Nashville is a tight-knit small town. Whatever this girl needs, she will get."
Grief counselors had been helping other students at the school, he added.
The Gutzlers owned a local furniture store and are were well-known in the area. “They were so full of life,” family friend Travis Volz said. “I mean, if the Gutzlers were there you knew it'd be fun and laughter."
A visitation was due to be held Tuesday for Sailor’s cousin, 14-year-old Sierra Wilder. Funerals for Sailor's dad Marty Gutzler, 48, his wife Kimberly, 46, and the survivor's nine-year-old sister, Piper, are scheduled for later this week.
Relatives have also set up a fundraising page for Sailor. “She is a brave little girl,” the site says. “Your generous donation will help Sailor obtain the emotional, physical and educational support she will need in the years to come.”
Sailor escaped Friday evening’s crash, in western Kentucky, with cuts to her legs and a broken wrist. She trekked through dense woodland and across a creek before knocking on a resident's door for help.
“We firmly believe there is a reason she walked out of that wreckage, there is a purpose for her life,” said Brink. "We may not see it tomorrow, a year from now, but she will positively affect lives."
He added: "It is just heartbreaking. When i think of Piper she was extremely active, always outside, always playing, hugely popular. It has just hit to the core of our school."