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Mother hailed as hero after fatal plane crash

Dec. 2, 2013, Anchorage, Al. - A mother on board a plane that crashed in remote southwest Alaska made a frantic phone call for help resuscitating her five-month-old baby, then left the fatally injured boy to lead searchers hampered by cold and fog to the crash site.


December 2, 2013
By The Winnipeg Free Press

Melanie Coffee, 25, walked over 1.6 kilometres toward lights in the village of Saint Marys to meet rescuers Friday night.

 

"I believe she's the real hero in this," said police
officer Fred Lamont Jr., one of the dozens from his community and
surrounding villages who responded to the crash that killed four and
injured six.

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The Hageland Aviation Cessna 208 turboprop left
Bethel at 5:40 p.m. on a scheduled flight for Mountain Village and
eventually Saint Marys.

 

Saint Marys, like scores of other
Alaska villages, is off the state road system. People routinely use
small aircraft to reach regional hubs where they can complete trips to
Anchorage or other cities.

 

The airplane never reached Mountain Village. It crashed around 6:30 p.m. 6.4 kilometres from Saint Marys.

 

Lamont, the village police
officer, is also trained as a health aide and was working with an
ambulance driver Friday. At about 7 p.m., he said, Coffee called another
on-duty health aide to say the airplane had crashed and she needed
assistance. "She was trying to do CPR to her newborn baby," Lamont said.
"She called for help."

 

Coffee, who suffered chest trauma, tried
whistling to alert searchers, Lamont said. She considered starting a
fire to get their attention but decided to walk toward village lights. A
GCI communications tower with a red strobe led her to the village
landfill.