- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 27, 2007

BOQUETE, Panama (AP) — A 12-year-old U.S. girl who was the sole survivor of a weekend plane crash was airlifted yesterday to a Panamanian hospital after rescue workers trekked for several hours through remote mountains to deliver her to safety and reunite her with anxious relatives.

The helicopter carrying Francesca Lewis touched down shortly after noon local time at a public hospital in David, capital of the province of Chiriqui, 30 miles east of the crash site.

At her parents’ request, an ambulance then drove her to a private facility in the same city, said Dr. Manuel de la Cruz, of the public hospital, Jose Domingo de Obaldia.

“She apparently has some fractures, but she is stable and talking,” Dr. de la Cruz told reporters.

Earlier yesterday, Francesca’s mother, Valerie Lewis, told the Associated Press in a telephone interview that her daughter was able to walk but apparently suffered a broken arm and hypothermia.

“My husband spoke to her by phone this morning,” Mrs. Lewis said. “She sounded good. She just said ‘Hi, daddy. See you soon.’ ”

Rescue workers struggled against heavy rains and high-altitude winds to help Francesca from the site of the plane crash on the jungle-covered flanks of the Baru volcano to a lower area accessible to helicopters.

A rescue helicopter reached the site from the nearby resort town of Boquete, where Francesca’s family had gathered early yesterday.

The crash of the Cessna 172, which happened Sunday about 270 miles west of the capital, Panama City, killed Francesca’s friend Talia Klein, 13; Talia’s father, Michael Klein, 37, of Santa Barbara, Calif.; and Panamanian pilot Edwin Lasso, 23.

Michael Klein was the chief executive officer of Pacificor LLC, a Santa Barbara-based company that manages several hedge funds. He founded two companies in the 1990s before becoming president and CEO of EGroups Inc., which was the world’s largest group e-mail communication service.

Yahoo Inc. purchased EGroups for $450 million in August 2000 and it is now known as Yahoo Groups.

Aviation authorities said the cause of the crash was not yet known, but RPC radio reported that witnesses saw the plane flying at a very low altitude around noon Sunday amid buffeting winds.

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