A Salt Spring Island woman is recovering in a Victoria hospital after she survived a Friday morning float plane crash on Vancouver Island’s west coast.
Lali Formaggia is an island-based naturopath and acupuncturist with offices on Salt Spring and in Victoria. She was on her way home from a multi-day backpacking trip along the remote Hesquiaht trail when the float plane she and five other people were travelling in is believed to have struck a tree soon after takeoff.
“The pilot tried to correct but he couldn’t. He hit the tree and we went down,” she recalled during a Monday afternoon interview from Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital.
Formaggia, who was seated behind the pilot, suddenly found herself in an urgent fight to get out of the burning plane.
“The airplane was in flames and I was feeling the heat on my legs,” she said. “I said to myself, ‘I don’t want to die like this.’”
She was eventually able to exit the plane with help from another passenger. She and the three other survivors waited more than four hours until a rescue helicopter from Comox reached the heavily forested crash site.
Formaggia is recovering in the hospital’s intensive care unit. She sustained a broken arm and burns to her legs as a result of the incident. She said her recovery is expected to take at least four months.
She thanked her friends and acquaintances for the tremendous moral support she has received since the crash.
“I’m so lucky,” she said. “Thank you so much.”
The plane’s pilot, whose identity has not been released, and Charles Turner, a 63-year-old Comox Valley resident, were killed in the crash. Formaggia and fellow passenger John Young were flown to hospitals in Victoria. The two other passengers were not seriously injured.
According to the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Victoria, the de Havilland Beaver operated by Air Nootka was carrying five passengers and its pilot from Hesquiaht Lake to Gold River when it crashed soon after takeoff at approximately 11 a.m. on Aug. 16. Investigators reached the crash site on Monday after inclement weather over the weekend hampered initial efforts.
A fund to assist Formaggia during her recovery has been established at sharespring.ca.