WATCH ABOVE: The memory of his son was enough for a Colorado pilot to consider crashing his plane. Jennifer Brice reports.
TORONTO – A Colorado man, who lost his pilot’s license years ago, walked away without a scratch after intentionally crashing his plane into the side of a mountain.
Eaton resident Mark Darling took off in a Cessna 172F high-wing airplane on Sunday, January 25, and flew west over Rocky Mountain National Park. He hadn’t submitted a flight plan because he had lost his pilot’s license years ago.
Nobody knew he was in the air.
By the time Darling reached the town where he raised his family, he seemingly became overcome with grief at the thought of his son, Travis, who lost his life in a car accident two years ago. Travis was in his early 20’s at the time of his death.
What happened next, only Darling could explain.
“Did you intentionally fly the plane into the mountain?” CBS reporter Jennifer Brice asked in a report.
“Yes, I did,” Darling replied.
“I make a bad decision at this point. I turn the airplane east toward the mountains,” Darling told Brice. “I say my last goodbyes, I closed my eyes and I wait for the impact.”
Photographs of the crash site in Rabbit Ears Pass confirm the wreckage barely resembles an aircraft.
“It’s just a mashed up ball of aluminum,” Darling told CBS affiliate KCNC.
Darling walked away from the crash without a scratch.
“I do not have a bruise from the seatbelt, not a scratch on me,” he added.
But Darling hadn’t escaped death entirely. He was now left alone, on a frigid mountain, with nobody aware of his whereabouts and no way to tell them. Darling couldn’t find his phone in the wreckage and did not come prepared with survival gear.
That’s when he claims his son’s voice guided and encouraged him not to give up.
“He’s like, ‘Dad, you are not going out like this. You’re going to get yourself up and you’re going to build a fire and you’re going to get yourself out of here,’” Darling said in the interview with CBS.
“He says, ‘Dad, just walk to the other side of the plane.’ He says, ‘just reach down in the snow.’ And I grab my phone at this point. I’m like, ‘oh my god.’”
Darling was rescued seven hours after the crash.
An NTSB investigation is still ongoing and Darling could face some consequences for his actions. But right now, he just hopes his story can give other grieving people some much-needed hope.
“I’ve never felt more alive in my life,” Darling ended with. “I don’t know what direction it’s going to lead me in, but, heck yeah I’m along for the ride now!”