In 1995, Sooke local Lindy Philip went on a little escape for the May long weekend by flying over to Sechelt with her two friends, one of them an amateur pilot.
Little did she know that her life was going to change forever in a matter of moments.
Upon landing on a small airstrip, the plane, a four-seater Cessna 172, hit a downdraft and windshear. The pilot became unsettled, and aborted the landing attempt so he could loop around and try again. Only, he didn’t have enough thrust to pull up, causing the aircraft to stall towards a big mountainous ravine.
Knowing what was coming, Benjamin Philip, her now-husband, who was sitting shotgun, took his arm and put it around the back of the seat and held her hand, saying, “This is it.”
“At that point I sort of felt calm, as there was nothing more I could do, it was almost surreal and peaceful at the same time,” she said.
The plane struck the top of a tree and plummeted right down to the forest floor, causing all three occupants to lose consciousness in the impact.
Squished in the back seat of the aircraft wreckage, Lindy was the first to wake up.
“I woke up feeling really surprised, I kind hugged myself, thinking ‘oh my gosh, I’m alive’ but then I started to panic,” she said, recalling that her first instinct was to wake the pilot and her husband up.
Pumped with adrenaline and shock, the three managed to get out.
A mountain biker found them, ensuing a full emergency response of 32 rescue workers. The pilot was airlifted due to his critical condition, but Lindsay didn’t want to set foot on an aircraft again. She spent three days in the hospital trying to recover from mostly soft tissue damage and broken ribs.
But the emotional trauma lingered, and after moving to Sooke from Vancouver two years after the incident, Lindy thought maybe it was better to start talking about it, to get it off her chest.
And that she did — she started a Facebook page called Plane Crash Survivors, hoping to meet other survivors or individuals who suffered a loss due to a plane crash. Today, the private group stands at 83 members today, growing with an almost bittersweet element to it.
Philip thought she could do even more than just talk about it, why not share these amazing, and chill-inducing stories with the world. In that time, she met Robin Suerig Holleran, a fellow plane crash survivor living in New York City. The two decided to start interviewing a wide variety of survivors from all over the world and help them tell their harrowing stories, many still too painful to bring up to this day.
“For some people it was painful, because to retell it was like reliving it,” she said, adding that part of the reason it was hard to go through with it was because she had been in that situation herself as well.
The collaborative effort gave way to a book, Bracing For Impact, a 200-page collection of plane crash survivor experience, as well as a window into how these individuals cope with their trauma years after the fact, including one chapter titled, Why was I Spared which focuses on “survivor guilt.”
With the book now out, Philip feels relieved her story, and indeed the story of all the air crash survivors she’s spoken to, is finally out.
Despite some trepidation from that fateful moment 19 years ago, she continues to fly, albeit mostly with bigger aircraft such as commercial airliners, and not before a little mediation and a calmative before longer flights.
Bracing For Impact is available at the Reading Room Cafe, Well Read Books and online.