When he flew out of Cody's Yellowstone Regional Airport on Friday evening, Jim Betzold had no reason to think the flight was going to be any different than the countless others he'd flown over the past 35 years.
"We were doing fine coming out of Cody," Betzold, 61, recounted in a Monday interview. "We got up to altitude and were getting ready to go through the pass (Sylvan Pass), and then the engine lost power."
Betzold, who lives in Beluga, on the west side of Cook Inlet, checked through his emergency procedures in an effort to get the Piper 180's single engine going at full power again, but nothing worked.
"We were dropping into a canyon" -- the Middle Creek drainage of the Shoshone River -- "too much to turn around and we didn't have any room, so I had to fly straight into the trees," Betzold said.
While that sounds suicidal, he was following a lesson he'd been taught for the small plane: "straight ahead and under control. Land it wherever you have to."
"Things are happening so fast you don't really have time to get scared," Betzold said.
The plane shredded in the tall trees, with pieces scattered over a couple hundred yards. Jim Betzold's body also took a beating as the craft fell to a halt: he broke two ribs and his nose, fractured his spine, cut up his knees and bruised his head.
"At least I'm not taking a dirt nap," a sore Jim Betzold, also from Beluga, laughed on Monday. Douglas Betzold, 25, escaped with cuts and bruises.
Betzold, for his part, has no idea what went wrong with his plane, which he carefully maintained for roughly 20 years. He said the craft performed flawlessly coming down through Canada on the trip.
"Everything's that way: it works real good until it breaks," he said.
Read the story of two VERY fortunate men, here.