Stranded motorist signals SOS to airliner

GEORGETOWN, Colo. -- His pickup truck stuck in a snowdrift on a lonely Colorado mountain pass, a motorist flashed an SOS on his headlights. The signal was seen by the passengers of a jetliner flying thousands of feet above.

Al Phillips, 30, of Georgetown explained how he was rescued Thursday when his pickup plowed into a snowdrift on 11,665-foot Guanella Pass.


Phillips said he had been visiting friends in Bailey, Colo., and was driving home when his truck became stuck in the snow. He tried unsuccessfully to dig it out and thought about walking for help, but decided it was too cold at 20 degrees below zero.

While sitting in the truck wondering what to do, Phillips heard an airplane flying overhead. He started flashing his lights in the SOS signal -- three short, three long and three short.

One passenger in the airplane, Harold E. Bray, happens to be sheriff in the Denver suburb area of Jefferson County. Bray was flying to San Francisco on business.

Bray noticed the lights flashing below, recognized the code and told the plane's pilot. The pilot radioed the Federal Aviation Administration center at Longmont and the controller in charge asked two nearby planes to investigate.


One of them, a Rocky Mountain Airways plane piloted by Mike Wilcox, saw the signal and circled overhead, flashing his landing lights to let Phillips know he had been spotted.

Wilcox radioed the FAA and the trouble report was forwarded to the Clear Creek County sheriff's office, which sent out two vehicles to rescue Phillips.

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