Two years after Mark Darling of Eaton, Colo., lost his young adult son in a car accident, the grieving pilot, who's flown his whole life but hasn't had a license in years, took his Cessna 172F high-wing airplane for one last ride over Rocky Mountain National Park, reports Global News. He told no one, and as he flew over the town where he'd raised his family, he was so overcome with sadness that he "made a bad decision," turned his plane east toward the mountains, closed his eyes, and waited for impact, reports CBS Denver. The next thing he knew he was "bustling through the trees," his plane so wrecked it was "a ball of aluminum"—yet his body was completely unmarked, without even a bruise from his seat belt.
Darling says that as he faced down the cold mountain, a lost cellphone, no survival gear, and no one knowing he'd flown, he heard his son's voice tell him to get up, build a fire, and "get yourself out of there." With a newly found desire to live, he says he then heard his son tell him to reach into the snow on the other side of the plane, where he found his cellphone and called his sister and 911. He was off the mountain in hours. And while he's worried about the consequences of intentionally crashing his plane—as well as flying it without a license—he says he'll deal with them: "I've never felt more alive in my life. I don't know what direction it's going to lead me in, but heck yeah, I'm along for the ride now." (Earlier this year, a 7-year-old girl walked away from a plane crash that killed her parents, sister, and cousin.)