Plane crash survivor doing ‘amazingly well’ at Denver hospital

Scott Franz
The wreckage of Mark Darling's plane is inspected at the crash site south of Rabbit Ears Pass. Darling's son said the survivor was doing "amazingly well" at a Denver hospital after being rescued after the crash.

— Mark Darling’s resilience amazed everyone.

After Darling’s plane crashed Sunday morning south of Rabbit Ears Pass, he climbed out of the wreckage of his mangled Cessna and lit a pool of spilled fuel to stay warm until rescuers reached him in a remote part of the woods.

He then was airlifted to a Denver hospital, where he told his family members he thought it was a miracle he had survived.

“He is doing amazingly well,” Darling’s son, Tzvi, wrote Monday in an email from Israel. “He did not break any bones, but he has a severe concussion. I talked to him and he is fully aware, but he has some memory loss from the accident. He could not recall the events that led up to the accident or why it happened. He is (a) very experienced pilot and has flown many times over Rabbit Ears Pass. He told me it is a miracle he survived.”

The Routt County Search and Rescue volunteers who rushed to the crash site on snowmobiles agreed.

Mark Darling, of Eaton, was flying his Cessna 172F high-wing airplane alone from Baggs, Wyoming, to Greeley when he crashed on top of Green Creek between Sarvis Creek and Harrison Creek.

After phoning his family and 911 for help, Tzvi Darling said his father used a battery to light a fire in some spilled gas.

“A truly amazing feat,” Tzvi Darling wrote.

When rescuers arrived at the crash site Sunday afternoon, they found Mark Darling trying to stay warm by the fire outside of the wreckage of his airplane.

The plane was upside down and heavily damaged.

“By all accounts, he probably should not have walked away from that,” search and rescue volunteer Kristia Check-Hill said.

Check-Hill said it was “awesome” for rescuers to hear right away that Darling was able to get outside of the aircraft on his own.

“It wasn’t his day,” she said.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

Eight search and rescue volunteers rode snowmobiles for more than five miles to the remote crash site to rescue Darling.

When they got there, rescuers were amazed and happy to see Darling’s condition.

“His main complaint was ‘I’m cold,'” Check-Hill said. “It was amazing. I don’t know how to describe it, but it was just a great feeling that he was up and walking around.”

Darling was listed in fair condition at Denver Health Medical Center Monday afternoon.

Tzvi said he was still undergoing some tests and scans.

He wrote that his father was “a lucky man.”

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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