Mother Forced to Leave Dying Infant to Direct Rescuers to Plane Crash

Illustration for article titled Mother Forced to Leave Dying Infant to Direct Rescuers to Plane Crash

News of yet another aviation disaster (this one in the all-but-impenetrable Alaska wilderness) has an extra heart-wrenching twist: a mother who survived a plane crash in remote southwest Alaska was forced to leave her fatally injured infant son to lead rescuers slowed by fog to the crash site.

According to an AP report, Melanie Coffee, a 25-year-old resident of Mountain Village, Alas., trekked nearly a mile through frigid weather from the site of crash towards the lights of the nearby village of Saint Marys Friday night. Rescuers credit her with saving the five other survivors, all of whom were seriously injured, four critically. The crash killed four of the regional aircraft's ten passengers, including pilot Terry Hansen, passengers Rose and Richard Polty, and Coffee's five-month-old son, Wyatt.


After the crash, Coffee made a frantic phone call for help resuscitating her son, but then left the dying boy to meet rescuers in Saint Marys. The Hageland Aviation flight had been bound for Mountain Village, and crashed around 6:30 pm Friday night, four miles away from Saint Marys.

The village, like so many other remote Alaskan villages, is off the grid, inaccessible through the state's road system. Regional travelers often use small planes like the Cessna 208 turboprop operated by Hageland Aviation to hope from village to village, though freezing precipitation, low visibility, and low ceilings make such journeys quite dangerous.

[AP via ABC]

Image via AP

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I am seriously sick to my stomach reading this. I know I often tell people "never say 'I would never' or 'I would have'," when discussing survival situations you have no experience with, because you have no idea what you are and are not capable of. But I just cannot fathom how one ever, ever comes back from an experience like that to the point that they can function day to day. Ever. But they do and it's incredible. still: Holy shit.