JUAN CARLOS LLORCA Associated Press Writer DAVID, Panama (AP)
Two brothers who helped rescue a 12-year-old California girl after the plane she was in crashed in Panama said they're hoping for a U.S. work visa as a reward, not money. Manuel and Miguel Angel Vurac were part of a group of volunteers who on Tuesday found 12-yearold Francesca Lewis, the sole survivor of the crash in Panama's remote western mountains. They also found the bodies of Francesca's friend Talia Klein, 13; Klein's father, Michael Klein, 37, a prominent businessman from Santa Barbara, Calif.; and Panamanian pilot Edwin Lasso, 23. Their Cessna 172 had disappeared two days earlier after departing from Islas Secas off Panama's Pacific coast, heading for the Chiriqui volcano, about 270 miles west of Panama City. Francesca, also from Santa Barbara, had small bruises and lacerations but was otherwise in extraordinary shape, her doctors said. Kim Klein, Michael's Klein ex-wife and Talia's mother, offered a $25,000 reward to anyone who located the aircraft. "I was taught to earn a living through my work, and (work) is what I'm asking for," Manuel Vurac, who has previously been in the U.S. with a work visa, said late Friday. Vurac, 40, said he worked in forestry for five years in Montana and Idaho until his visa expired a year ago. His brother Miguel, 32, is an electrician. Klein, speaking Saturday from Santa Barbara, said the men still would receive the monetary reward, possibly in about a week. The brothers and another man hiked for hours through fog and in freezing weather to reach the site of the crash. "They deserve that money no matter what, and they're getting it," Klein said. As for work visas, Klein was unsure how to obtain them. "It's not like I am the president. If I could get them a work visa, I would. I don't even know where to start but I'll have somebody look into it." A spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Panama congratulated the rescuers and said they could get information on acquiring a work visa. "But to get one they must first fulfill the requirements," said the spokesman, who was not authorized to give his name. Francesca's mother, Valerie Lewis, said Saturday that Francesca is having a hard time accepting that her best friend was killed in the crash. "Yesterday she was getting back to normal and being spunky but today she is kind of sad," Valerie Lewis said. "The fact that her friend died (has been) the hardest part." Valerie Lewis said the family would have a late Christmas celebration at their Santa Barbara home once Francesca is able to travel. "When they said they found her that was the biggest Christmas present," she said.