Friends and family who gathered Wednesday to mourn a 14-year-old Nashville girl who died in a plane crash with relatives recalled her as a teen who loved interacting with friends.
Those attending the funeral of Sierra Wilder included dozens of her classmates from Nashville High School. Pastor Danny Donato reminded the students that they were often in the background of the selfies Sierra shared on social networks.
The pastor said Sierra “loved the social aspect of life” and rarely was without her phone. He said she had a smile that was “infectious.”
“Rarely did you not see her smiling, or not giggling with her friends,” Donato said.
Sierra died in a plane crash Friday along with three relatives: Marty and Kim Gutzler of Nashville and the Gutzler’s 9-year-old daughter, Piper Gutzler. Another Gutzler daughter, 7-year-old Sailor Gutzler, survived the crash in Kentucky.
Donato said the Gutzler girls were “more like little sisters” to Sierra than cousins.
Atop Sierra’s closed casket was a flower arrangement with blue, violet, green and orange. Next to the casket were poster boards filled with photos of her in typical teen settings: at school and sports events, at dances, at family gatherings.
Many mourners dabbed away tears, notably when a friend of Wilder’s, Emily Detering, began crying and couldn’t finish singing a guitar-accompanied song in tribute to her friend.
Memorials for Sierra can be made to the Nashville High School drama club. Donations can be made at the Campagna Funeral Home in Nashville.
Visitation for the Gutzlers, open to the public, is scheduled for 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Nashville Middle School gymnasium. The school gym was chosen as the site because of the large crowd that is expected.
A funeral service for the Gutzlers, which is private and only for family members and close friends, is 11 a.m. Friday at Trinity Lutheran Church in Nashville, with the Rev. Matthew Wietfeldt officiating.
In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to the Sailor Gutzler fund at www.sailorgutzlerfund.com, or will be accepted at the Campagna Funeral Home in Nashville.
The bodies of Sierra and the Gutzlers will be cremated following their funerals.
It was not immediately clear if Sailor, who was injured in the crash but walked nearly a mile through the dark woods to find help, attended Wednesday’s service. Sailor, who suffered a broken wrist, is staying with relatives.
Sierra was traveling with the Gutzlers back from a Florida vacation when the small plane piloted by Marty Gutzler, a licensed commercial pilot and flight instructor, crashed. Federal investigators still are trying to determine what caused the accident, and a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board could come as soon as next week.
After the crash, Sailor endured near-freezing temperatures while dressed in shorts and T-shirt during her trek through thick woods and briar patches. She came to the home of 71-year-old Larry Wilkins, who said she was crying and covered in blood when she told him her mother and father were dead.
Wilkins said Sailor’s grandparents told him Tuesday that her physical injuries would heal, but that they didn’t speak of her emotional state.
“You can heal some wounds, but emotionally that’s just going to take some time,” said Wilkins, adding that he offered to attend the family’s funerals “if the little girl wanted me there.”
“She’s tough, that little girl is,” he said.