• 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

    Mountain View gas station serves free meals for holiday

    by Shannon Ballard on Nov 26, 16:00

    You don’t usually find a full kitchen at a gas station, but a former take-out counter in Mountain View serves a different purpose once a year. On Thanksgiving, it serves the community. In Sook Baik owns the neighbor Shell station. Like many who have found their way to Alaska, she’s an immigrant. She moved from Korea with close […]

  • News

    Soldotna man killed in house fire Thanksgiving morning, wife survives

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Nov 26, 15:37

    A Soldotna man was killed in a residential fire Thursday morning after waking his wife and alerting her to the danger. Alaska State Troopers in Soldotna received a 911 call reporting a fire on Mackey Lake Road at 7:14 a.m., according to an online dispatch. One of the residents of the home, 90-year-old John Kelsch, […]

  • Lifestyle

    Tips for safe online shopping in the age of hackers

    by Amy Kraft / CBS News on Nov 26, 15:35

    Nearly 135 million Americans will be shopping on Thanksgiving weekend according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. Although Black Fridayand Cyber Monday are perfect times to buy gifts for the upcoming holidays, they are also the perfect time for hackers to steal customers’ credit card and personal data. “Security has now become a board […]

  • News

    Meals on Wheels delivers Thanksgiving dinner for Anchorage seniors

    by Heather Hintze on Nov 26, 15:33

    Long before the sun came up Thanksgiving morning, volunteers were hard at work at the Salvation Army’s McKinnel House. There was an assembly line of people scooping mashed potatoes and piling on the turkey for more than 300 dinners for the Meals on Wheels program to make sure no senior citizens go hungry this holiday. […]

  • News

    Hundreds turn out for Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot in Anchorage

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Nov 26, 15:04

    This year’s Skinny Raven Turkey Trot in downtown Anchorage was host to more than 2,100 runners, making it the largest Turkey Trot to date. Some of the runners turned out in full costume, while others dressed for the chilly morning weather. First time “Turkey trotters” Michael and Milly Sullivan arrived decked out in turkey hats […]

  • Lifestyle

    Tests zero in on source of E. coli in Costco chicken salad

    by Associated Press on Nov 26, 15:02

    Testing has pointed toward a vegetable mix from a California food wholesaler as the source of E. coli in Costco chicken salad that has been linked to an outbreak that has sickened 19 people in seven states, a Costco official said Wednesday. Craig Wilson, Costco vice president of food safety and quality assurance, said he was told […]

  • Crime

    Former caretaker gets 20 years for shooting death

    by Associated Press on Nov 26, 11:59

    A former in-home caretaker will spend 20 years in prison for fatally shooting a blind woman’s husband. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports (http://bit.ly/1MGipKm) no time will be suspended for 53-year-old Anthony Wayne Charleston under a sentence issued Wednesday by Superior Court Judge Paul Lyle. Charging documents say the woman called 911 in March 2013 when […]

  • News

    Travel not recommended along Kuskokwim because of thin ice

    by Associated Press on Nov 26, 10:30

    Residents are being advised not to use the Kuskokwim River in western Alaska because of thinning ice. KYUK reports (http://is.gd/Dc29ie) the advisory comes after Bethel Search and Rescue conducted an aerial survey along a 50-mile stretch of the river, from Napaskiak to Tuluksak. Officials report there’s about 50 holes open in the ice along that […]