The plane lost power just after take-off, said a witness, and it seemed to hang for a second in the sky. But when it plummeted into a St. John’s, Arizona neighborhood on August 16, 2008, it took Stephanie Nielson, her husband Christian, and pilot Doug Kinneard with it.
Kinneard was killed in the crash. Stephanie and Christian, a young couple with four small children, survived with severe burn injuries — in Stephanie’s case over 83 percent of her body. They’ve spent the last year and a half recovering, rehabilitating, and learning how to live with their new normal.
This past summer, they marked the one year anniversary of the crash with a hike up Provo’s Y Mountain, as well as a quiet backyard get together with family and friends.
Last Sunday, AZCentral.com ran the first in a part of the series “Climbing Back,” sharing Stephanie’s story. From the moment the plane crashed to Stephanie’s quiet but determined recovery, the family’s story is told in heartbreaking and graphic detail.
Christian tells about how he thought Stephanie was behind him when he escaped the plane, and how when he realized his mistake he made the gut-wrenching choice not to go back in, so their children wouldn’t have to lose both parents that day. Stephanie talks about how her 22 month old son didn’t recognize her when they were finally reunited, how he would only let her touch his shoe, and how she laid in bed with him night after night, whispering, “Please, please, remember me.”
The Nielson family also talks about the amazing level of support they got from their family and also from strangers who either were already reading Stephanie’s blog, NieNie Dialogues, or who followed the story on Stephanie’s sister’s blog, C Jane Enjoy It. Over $250,000 was raised through blogger fundraisers and benefit concerts.
It’s a story of a devastating accident, for sure, but one that the Nielson’s have turned around to be a message of determination, strength, hope, and the power of love. See the story here, as well as a gallery of pictures that were taken the night that the Nielson’s loved ones gathered to mark the anniversary.
Photo: Cheryl Evans, azcentral.com