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'Miraculous:' The story of rescue & recovery after a deadly Southeast Alaska plane crash

 Rescuers help extract a survivor from a plane crash on Admiralty Island on April 8, 2016.
Rescuers help extract a survivor from a plane crash on Admiralty Island on April 8, 2016. (KTUU)
Published: May. 20, 2016 at 4:23 PM AKDT
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The sole survivor of a Southeast Alaska plane crash that killed three people is now being treated at a Colorado hospital where her family describes her tale of recovery as "miraculous."

Ketchikan resident Morgan Enright, 21, is working with physical, occupational, and speech therapists daily. She had her first shower last weekend and is “happily eating and drinking throughout the day,” her mother posted on CaringBridge, a website for shared medical updates.

Chere Klein, Enright’s mom, said she’s not ready to speak publicly about her daughter’s experience in the April 8 crash but gave KTUU permission to write about it based on her CaringBridge posts.

Enright was on her way from Wrangell to Angoon for work when the Cessna 206 she was riding in crashed on Admiralty Island at 9:12 a.m. The plane went down in steep, snowy terrain about 17 miles southeast of Angoon, a mostly Tlingit community located in the coastal rainforest.

Pilot David Galla, 60, was killed along with passengers Greg Scheff, 61, and Thomas Siekawitch, 57. All three were from Wrangell.

The Coast Guard launched a helicopter from Sitka and located the plane’s wreckage at 11:17 a.m., according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The chopper couldn’t land due to hazardous weather.

At 1:55 p.m. the Coast Guard, along with Sitka Mountain Rescue, returned to try again. Ron Duvall, a volunteer with Sitka Mountain Rescue, was among the group of four first responders.

The helicopter dropped them off on a ridge, Duvall recalled in an interview today with Channel 2. Two rescuers hiked down to the crash site while the other two stayed above to watch for possible avalanches.

“We saw Morgan move her arms. We radioed back to the helicopter that there was a survivor,” Duvall said.

Duvall and his partner started removing gear and luggage strewn about the plane, along with the seat Enright was strapped in. When the two other rescuers arrived, they extracted her from the plane, which was nose down in the snow.

One person stabilized Enright's neck. Another held her hips while another stabilized her feet.

Duvall said, “Her eyes were not open. She was cold to the touch."

But she was alive.

After extracting her from the plane, Duvall and the team placed Enright in a Coast Guard basket along with a rescue swimmer. The helicopter hoisted her inside.

Enright was medevaced to Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center in critical condition.

Doctors placed her on dialysis to help her kidneys function. A ventilator assisted her with breathing.

Three days after the crash, Klein wrote that her daughter’s condition was precarious but that she was "steady."

“In her extremely critical condition this is very positive,” Klein wrote.

Enright began breathing on her own a week after the crash. When she would open her eyes, Enright recognized her family. She would squeeze hands when instructed by a nurse. Soon her brain pressure monitor was removed.

By April 20, 12 days after the crash, Enright moved to the acute care unit after having surgery on left leg two days earlier.

“She will need a skin graft in the near future but overall a stable day!” Klein posted on April 18.

When she was a bit more stable, Enright was able to sit in a gravity chair.

Earlier this month, Enright started eating ice chips and apple sauce, and drinking milk. On May 6, her mom posted that Enright’s kidneys were working again.

“Morgan said it’s time to celebrate with a Mimosa!” Klein wrote.

Harborview Medical Center discharged Enright to the care of a rehabilitation center in Englewood, Colo., on May 12 where she continues to improve.

Part of Enright’s recovery involves getting visits from a variety of therapy dogs.

“From Newfoundlands to mini-Schnauzers; many Golden Retrivers and Yellow Labs have snuggled right up in bed. Thank goodness for all the folks willing to share their special dogs!” Klein wrote.

A final NTSB report on the crash is expected to come out in early July. Meantime, Duvall, the rescuer, has been monitoring Enright’s progress on CaringBridge.

“I’m ecstatic. I’m dumbfounded," he said. "I’m not sure I could put a good adjective on the emotions that come with seeing her recover."