ORLANDO, Fla. – Alex Arhets is celebrating his daughter's high school graduation this week at Disney World. He's also celebrating being alive.
During his vacation, Arhets exclusively showed Channel 4's Orlando sister-station, WKMG-TV the video of what he calls a life-changing experience.
Arhets said the day started out perfectly back in June, when he and three other friends, one of them an experienced pilot, decided to go sightseeing through picturesque Idaho. Arhets is from Boise.
They'd taken off and landed already once that day, but on their second take-off, the vintage single-engine plane would not climb.
"We looked out, pop pop pop, trees started hitting. He tried to pull the plane up little, the plane rolled and then came down and landed on its nose," said Arhets. "We're all hanging upside down from our seat belts and started asking each other are you ok, are you ok?"
Except for the pilot, who was cut and bleeding the worst, all of them were ok.
Arhets said he knew how to survive a crash because of his experience treating trauma patients while working as a physician's assistant.
"As the plane stared hitting the trees I told myself go limp and relax. And so I did and that's when my arms dropped down and my arms flopped around," said Arhets. "As we hit, the plane turned over, and when it landed the windows crushed, debris, dirt was flying inside the cabin. I had expected to see the light flashing before my eyes, but instead I had an instant calm feeling we were going to be ok."
Arhets said first campers spotted the crash site and ran over to help, then firefighters arrived to cut down a swath of trees so paramedics could land a rescue helicopter – all within an hour.
"They were all amazed and surprised, we were so lucky, all the other crashes they came to see they were picking up body parts," said Arhets. "I feel lucky, excited I'm still here with my family. You understand the more important things like family and friends and learn to ignore the things that don't matter as much."
Arhets said he decided to post the video on YouTube to inspire others, realizing that it's rare to survive a small plane crash virtually unscathed.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash. Arhets claimed the plane hit a downdraft and the air was hot and thin that day, which is why the plane could not gain altitude. Arhets insisted the plane was not overloaded, as they'd already flown on that day once before and changed nothing.
Arhets and his friends posted this description under their video on YouTube:
"This is unprecedented footage of a small airplane crash from inside the cockpit from two different views. Miraculously, everyone survived. The pilot will make a full recovery and the rest of us escaped with superficial injuries and feel very lucky to be alive . This trip was much anticipated and due to our excitement we had our Gopro cameras filming at various times. After flying up into the mountains for a hike in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness we were planning on flying to a small mountain town for dinner. Due to warming temperatures we had a hard time gaining altitude. After taking off we hit an air pocket that made us rapidly loose altitude, pushing us down into the trees. The cameras were left on for a couple of hours during the aftermath. Thank you to all the many individuals who eventually came to our aid and took the time and effort to help in any way they could. We appreciate you more than you know."