It was not how three friends from New Jersey thought they would be spending their planned ski weekend in the Adirondacks.
"Nothing more than a miracle," Frank Dombroski said.
The three never made it. Pilot Frank Dombroski had trouble landing his single-engine plane at the Lake Placid Airport. It then crashed into a mountain. Investigators say snowy conditions may have been a factor. Miraculously, the three men on board only suffered scratches in the crash.
"After the holy crap, we're OK, we felt like we won the lottery," Dombroski said.
The men used their cellphones to call 911.
"It was amazing, totally unexpected. You always envision the worst when there's been a plane crash," said Joseph LaPierre, a forest ranger with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.
Equipped with a GPS, one of the men gave rescue crews their coordinates. It put them near Nye Mountain.
"The GPS system tells us we are within a couple hundred feet of where they are supposed to be and nobody has responded to us yet. That was kind of raising a red flag," said Chris Kostoss, a forest ranger with the N.Y. DEC.
That's when Dombroski received a text from a friend who had read about the crash online.
"So I Googled it on my phone and read the story, and it indicated they were looking for us 5 miles southeast of the airport, and we knew we were not southeast, we were northeast," Dombroski said.
They called rescue crews to inform them of the mix-up. It turns out the coordinates provided by the GPS use a different formula than the one used by first responders. The men were actually stuck on Big Burn Mountain several miles away and over a mile from the nearest trail.
"It was challenging; it was essentially bushwhacking. There's a network of trails in there, but not really formal trails. Most of our searches take place on a beaten down trail that makes it easier," Kostoss said. "It was really tricky; the snow was deep from the previous days."
Meanwhile, the men remained hunkered down. Temperatures hovered around zero. Fortunately they were able to stay warm with the ski gear they had packed. A canopy on the plane served as a tent and pine branches were used to keep the men off the cold and deep snow.
Nine hours after their plane crashed, the men were finally brought off the mountain.
"We'll remember it. All rangers remember plane crashes they have been involved with, but this one will be a good memory," Kostoss said.
"We loved those guys, we couldn't have more gratitude for their perseverance, their fortitude; they essentially did a double rescue," Dombroski said.
Three friends thankful and lucky to be alive after a vacation gone wrong.
The National Transportation Safety Board hopes to complete its investigation into why the plane went down in the next few months.
Friday, March 7 2014 7:28 PM EST2014-03-08 00:28:44 GMT
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