• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 58s

Preparing for post-traumatic stress from the St. Mary’s crash

By Rhonda McBride 10:51 AM December 3, 2013

Trauma ripples through communities, experts say

ANCHORAGE – A critical incident counselor said he’s not surprised fallout from a plane crash near St. Mary’s has been felt across Alaska.

The plane’s pilot, a married couple and a 5-month-old baby were among those killed when a Cessna Caravan, which was supposed to be carrying passengers home to neighboring Mountain Village, slammed into the ground Friday night. Six others survived, including the infant’s mother.

Bob Chaney works for Southcentral Foundation in Anchorage, but he’s traveled to a number of small, rural communities to help them cope with the aftermath of tragedies like fatal plane crashes. Chaney compared the impact of the St. Mary’s crash to that of a big rock thrown into a lake.

“I’m sure there have been a lot of conversations about near misses,” Chaney said. “Because much of the travel in Alaska is by small plane, we’re all somewhere in that ripple.”

Although the victims, their families and their friends feel the main force of the impact, others may be touched by tragedy in some unexpected ways.

“There is a ripple effect,” said Chaney, who added that the impact of the trauma can’t be overstressed. “It will cause us to have medical issues, behavioral issues.”

Chaney, who also trains counselors to respond to tragedies, said he tells them that the best medicine is “talk.”

“There is no easy fix, and there’s no easy answer,” Chaney said. “But we do know that helping each other and staying open — even if it’s difficult, even if we don’t feel like it — does help relieve some of the stress.”

In the St. Mary’s plane crash, Village Public Safety Officers and health aides were among the first to help the survivors, which Chaney said makes them very vulnerable.

“Their job is to be heroic. They’re going to be tough. They’re going to say they’re not impacted, but we know that they are.”

Chaney said he’s glad to see that health and safety organizations have begun to pay more attention to the impact of post-traumatic stress among their rank and file. The Bethel-based Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation has offered the services of its “Post-vention” team to St. Mary’s and Mountain Village.  Local schools are keeping a close eye on students and offering counseling.

Also this week, Village Public Safety Officers will attend a stress debriefing in St. Mary’s.

“There is healing in acknowledging and putting words to trauma, even trauma from the past,” said Chaney, who warns that the St. Mary’s crash may reawaken grief in others who have lost loved ones in a plane crash, or perhaps in some other tragedy.  “Even if someone’s further out on the ripple of the effect of the event, they can still have their own issues brought forward.”

Chaney said the ripples from the St. Mary’s crash will go on for years and years, and even longer for those who are affected and don’t talk about it. Once the initial trauma begins to subside and people settle back into their normal routines, some in the community may feel a vacuum and suffer silently. He said it’s important for those who feel overwhelmed to find a safe person and share their feelings.

“So one of the most important things to do is to reach out,” advises Chaney. “And those of us who aren’t so impacted, being respectful of that need for some space, but also being available and not going far away.”

Latest Stories

  • News

    Anchorage man hopes to revitalize Ahtna language with new children’s book

    by Heather Hintze on Dec 17, 21:32

    It all starts with a story. “Ndoxe Tiziyaas?” asked Grant Rebne. That’s half of the title of his new children’s book, with the other half translating to English as “Where are you going?” Rebne hopes the book will inspire people to learn and preserve his native language, Ahtna. “Our language shows our culture,” Rebne said. “It’s who […]

  • News

    Alaska Zoo takes in orphaned bear cubs

    by Bonney Bowman on Dec 17, 21:21

    Two orphaned black bear cubs will have a second shot at life thanks to some TLC at the Alaska Zoo. One of the cubs, a 29-pound male, was found living under a porch in Eagle with an infected bite wound. The other, a 15-pound female, is from Kasilof. She was very underweight, according to zoo executives. […]

  • Weather

    Evening News weather, Dec. 17

    by KTVA Weather on Dec 17, 19:34

    Kenai Peninsula and Prince William Sound Sun starts to peek through towards Homer. Southeast Expect rain towards the south and mostly cloudy skies towards the north. Interior and North Slope In the Interior, skies will be mostly cloudy. On the North Slope, skies will be cloudy with early fog. Mat-Su Valley Sun makes a come […]

  • News

    2 Alaskan women receive Congressional Gold Medal for WWII service

    by Lauren Maxwell on Dec 17, 19:26

    Two Alaskan women share a special honor. Jean White and Jane Soeten were recently awarded a Congressional Gold Medal in Washington, D.C. for their volunteer service in the Civil Air Patrol during World War II. White is 93 years old and has lived in Anchorage for over 50 years. Soeten, 87, moved to Wasilla two years ago. […]

  • News

    200 baby turtles rescued at Anchorage airport

    by Shannon Ballard on Dec 17, 18:24

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seized more than 200 live, baby turtles that were being smuggled to China for the food and pet trade in September. As the turtles made their way through Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in September, officials discovered them packed inside boots, according to the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. As […]

  • News

    Sony cancels Christmas release of ‘The Interview’

    by CNN / AP on Dec 17, 15:59

    WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama says his administration is taking the cyberattack against Sony studios seriously. He says people should “go to the movies.” Sony said Wednesday it was canceling the Dec. 25 release of “The Interview” after many theaters said they would hold off on screening the film. Threats have been made against theaters […]

  • DayBreak

    On the couch with vlogger Cory Williams, Dec. 17

    by Daybreak Staff on Dec 17, 15:04

    Video blogger Cory Williams, better known as DudeLikeHELLA, returned to the original frozen lake that made the “coolest sound ever” when he skipped rocks on it. This time, however, he was welcomed by the scariest sounds ever, he says. “I start walking out and then all of a sudden these crazy noises, like the Loch […]

  • News

    Anchorage police seek help finding 13-year-old runaway

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Dec 17, 15:03

    Anchorage police are seeking the public’s help finding a 13-year-old runaway. Kayleas Gray was last seen at her Chugach Way residence Tuesday night. She was reported missing Wednesday morning around 8 a.m., according to a statement from the Anchorage Police Department. Neither friends nor family have seen or heard from Kayleas since, police say. Kayleas is […]