May 12, 2013

Plane crash survivors on the mend in Maine

When the Evans family's plane went down in the Alaska wilderness, their dreams crash-landed, too. In the aftermath, they brought their broken bodies and resilient spirits across a continent – to the Waldo County town of Searsport.

By KYLE HOPKINS Staff Writer for The Anchorage Daily News
and TOM BELL Staff Writer for the Maine Sunday Telegram

(Continued from page 4)

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The Evans family, pictured at their home in Searsport, includes, from left, 12-year-old Donald III; 10-year-old Mckenzie; Rosemarie; 14-month-old Willow; and Donald.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Additional Photos Below


THE DESCRIPTION of the plane crash was largely obtained from a recording Donald Evans made while recovering in a hospital in Anchorage, Alaska. He provided additional information two weeks ago during an interview at his home in Searsport, Maine.


The cause of the crash has not been determined, although mechanical failure has been ruled out. The Evans family has been living on money they received from the airplane company's insurance. Some of the money was used to buy their 193-year-old house, a fixer-upper they found on a real estate website while still living in Alaska.

Donald, whose recovery has been the slowest, sees doctors two or three times a week, traveling to the Togus VA Medical Center in Augusta for treatment and to Mercy Hospital in Portland for surgery. Doctors are trying to help him cope with the neurological damage caused by his spinal cord injury. His foot, which was mangled in the crash, has been straightened out but is still far from functional. Doctors operated on it in Portland earlier this month.

Rosemarie suffers from arthritis in both feet, a result of nerve damage to her spine, and she experiences constant back pain. Still she's trying to find some "middle ground" where she can experience a fulfilling life despite the pain.

Donnie and Mckenzie have proven to be the most resilient. They've recovered both physically and emotionally. Both played basketball this winter in the town's recreation league, and they have made a lot of friends, Rosemarie said.

The children grew up moving around a lot, and they were always eager to move along to the next town or state, Rosemarie said.

But now they don't want to leave Searsport. "They want to build a life here," she said.

Donald and Rosemarie say they feel safe in Maine, and that people here are friendly and trusting. Back in Alaska, a more transient state with a high rate of violent crime, people were more guarded, they said.

As often happens in families, the children are leading the parents into the community, through relationships developed at school and in sports. Over the past few weekends, Donnie has been helping classmates rehabilitate the courtyard at the middle school. While watching her son work, Rosemarie met a mother who heads the school's parent/teacher group, and was invited to attend the group's next meeting.

It's a small thing, but it's a big step forward for someone who has spent nearly all of her time for the past two years either housebound or in hospital rooms.

Rosemarie and Donald hope they'll be healthy enough by next fall to work as substitute teachers in local schools, although they worry that nobody will hire them because of their health problems.

Yet despite their obstacles, they feel fortunate to be alive.

"You really do feel you have a second chance," Donald said. "We need to do something. We need to have a purpose. We just don't know what that is."

Kyle Hopkins reported from Anchorage, Alaska. Staff Writer Tom Bell reported from Searsport.


Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

Twitter: TomBellPortland

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Additional Photos

Anvik Plane Crash
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The pilot and a fellow passenger were killed when the small plane the Evanses were traveling in crashed near McGrath, Alaska, in August 2011. The survivors moved to Maine the following year.

Courtesy Alaska State Police

Anvik Plane Crash
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This crumpled Cessna, seen in the Alaska wilderness west of McGrath, was carrying six people when it crashed on Aug. 13, 2011, killing the pilot and a longtime schoolteacher from Anvik. The survivors, Donald and Rosemarie Evans and their two children, were rescued after more than 15 hours.

Courtesy Alaska State Police

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The Evans family, from left, Rosemarie, Mckenzie, Willow, Donnie and Donald, sit in the dining room of their home in Searsport late last month. In August 2011, the whole family was traveling to a remote village in Alaska when their plane went down. They broke bones and sustained significant injuries, but they survived. Last year, the Evanses moved to this Waldo County town, "a quiet place, a healing place," to recover and reconnect with life.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Donald Evans holds 14-month-old Willow as he listens to his wife talk about the 2011 plane crash in Alaska. Rosemarie Evans was two months pregnant at the time. "It's by the grace of God that we're all here," she said.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer


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