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On February 19, 1979, a small plane crashed into Ontario Peak in the San Gabriel Mountains, and a ten-hour story of death, courage, and survival began. The passengers of that Cessna 172 included the pilot, a young woman, an attorney, and his eleven-year-old son. The pilot and the attorney were killed in the crash. The boy said he knew his father was dead when he tried to rouse him and “he wouldn’t wake up.” The boy and the young woman huddled in the snow near the plane for seven hours, hoping to be rescued. Finally they decided they must attempt the treacherous descent of the mountain or freeze to death. Shortly after they began, the woman fell 350 feet to her death. The boy, all 75 pounds of him, was lost and all alone on a mountain in the freezing cold. Bloody and bruised, broken bones in both hands, his father lying dead a few feet away—what was he to do? He never gave up. He slid most of the way down the mountain on the seat of his pants, clutching a stick in his fractured hands. Whenever he began to slide too fast, he wedged the stick in the snow as a brake. About 5 p.m. he was found near a village at the foot of the mountain and rushed to a hospital. Wet, bloody, and exhausted, he was still very much alive.

Before his release from the hospital there was a news conference. The boy encountered a barrage of questions...

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