Timberline High Athletic Director Tol Gropp remembers the thud of treetops pelting his fathers 1947 Stinson single engine prop plane.
His consciousness returns a few seconds later or maybe it was minutes while he is hanging upside down, asking about the safety of his father and two longtime friends.
Les Gropp is the first out of the mangled red plane, followed by Nathan Williams, 38, of Boise, Tol, 38, and Alec Arhets, 41, of Boise.
Williams, Arhets and Tol are unscathed, but 70-year-old Les is bleeding from the mouth and has obvious facial injuries.
It was pretty clear that he had a broken jaw, Tol said. He had some loose teeth and its possible at that point that hes got a broken cheek.
The four men are near a small clearing of trees somewhere in the Bear Valley area, about 30 miles north of Lowman in Valley County. Tol estimates they had been in the air for at least a few minutes after taking off from Bruce Meadows Airport on June 30.
There is no cell service.
No one is in sight.
Within about 10 minutes, a car pulls up on a nearby Forest Service road. After checking on the four men, the two people in the car agree that the best thing to do is find help.
Alone once again and unsure what to do next, Tol and Arhets give Les and Williams a blessing based on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints beliefs that all four share. Although he appears OK, Williams is showing signs of a concussion and keeps asking the same confused questions.
We are a pretty religious family and so are my friends. Some people will mark this off as my imagination ... but we feel strongly that due to those blessings that help arrived so quickly in such mass numbers, Tol said.
Shortly after the blessings, a retired firefighter and a female paramedic who had been camping in the area rush onto the scene. The two passing campers take care of Les, making him comfortable and putting his swollen arm in a makeshift splint.
Those two stayed with my dad for the two hours maybe an hour-and-a-half before Life Flight got there, said Tol, whose family received an unexpected visit this week from the retired firefighter, Darren Crays.
The series of miracles did not end there.
A group of three to four trucks carrying BLM firefighting crews appeared next. The group did not know about the crash, but used their radios to call for help.
The plane crashed near a clearing, but there was not enough room for a Life Flight helicopter to land. The fire crew went to work, clearing a space for the helicopter.
It was just one of those things that was kind of miraculous, Tol said, that there was another thing there to help us.
Les spent two nights in the intensive care unit at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, and was home by Tuesday. His jaw is broken in three places, he has six plates in his face and his jaw will be wired shut for the next six weeks.
Tol said his father who served in the military for 32 years and flew helicopters during the Vietnam War is already up and about at his Boise home.
Williams suffered a concussion, while Tol and Arhets who were in the rear seats escaped with minor scrapes and bruises.
Its crazy. You dont hear of people walking away from these things, Tol said. There are a lot of people that say, You are pretty dang lucky to even live, let alone really not have anything worse than my dads injuries. He took the brunt of it, and thats what he wanted.
In talking with other pilots, as well as communicating with his father after the accident, Tol said his dad did everything he could to keep the group safe from more serious injuries.
In talking to my dad, who has a pretty good memory of what took place, he said that basically the air was thick because of the heat and it wasnt allowing us to gain altitude like we should. That downdraft pushed us back down to where we shouldnt have been, Tol said.
What my dad said he did was he made sure the nose was up, and then as soon as we were starting to clip the trees, he turned it so that his side would take the brunt (of the impact).
Said Arhets: We impacted nose down and on the roof. As it dug in and started sliding, windshield, dirt, little sticks and debris were flying inside the cabin. ... I still picture that scene in my head about a half a dozen times per day. I didnt miss any of it while it was going on.
Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board were in Valley County last week investigating the crash and released a preliminary report Monday.
Investigators say the plane was substantially damaged after impacting terrain during initial climb after takeoff from the Bruce Meadows Airport at 2:05 p.m. Les Gropp did not file a flight plan but NTSB investigators say he was headed to the McCall Municipal Airport.
Arhets told NTSB investigators that (Gropp) flew straight out for about three or four minutes, but the airplane would only ascend to about 60 to 70 feet above the tops of the trees. (Arhets) stated that the airplane started losing altitude and experienced a downdraft, which was followed by its wings impacting the tops of the surrounding trees. The airplane subsequently came down through the trees before impacting terrain inverted and sliding to a stop.
The wreckage of the plane is in a secure facility so NTSB investigators can continue their investigation. It will likely be several months before they issue a final report on the crash.
When youre flying in the backcountry, anything can happen no matter how much you prepare, how much you think about it, Les Gropp said. From the time I realized that we were going to have to put it down someplace, and I was trying to make it back to the airport, it was less than a minute that you have to react. Whatever experience that you have in the past is what you put into what occurs then.
They couldnt have been in better hands.
I really believe his experience and ability to fly saved our lives, Tol said. I have no doubt that that had a big hand in it.
Less than 48 hours after the accident, Tol was back walking the halls of West Junior High, where he is serving as a principal for 100 or so summer school students in an alternative program.
Tol, who has competed in triathlons, including the Ironman 70.3 Boise in 2011, plans to take a few weeks off to spend with his family before the 2012-13 school year. When the fall sports season starts in August, hell be back full time as Timberlines athletic director.
In a 2011 interview with the Idaho Statesman, before his Ironman race, Tol said as an educator that his appearance in the race sent a positive message to students who may see him on the course.
Now he has a different message to share.
I havent gone an hour probably without thinking about (the crash), Tol said. Sure theres tons of lessons inside of this experience that I will relay to my kids, to coaches, to friends. Theres a reason that were supposed to still be here.
Added Arhets: The little small problems that you may have thought you had or other people have had seem trivial compared to the ability to walk, talk, breathe. I just feel like the four of us must have more to do on this Earth or we wouldnt be here.
Rachel Roberts: 377-6422,Twitter: @IDS_VarsityX