Vicki Parrish of Seven Bays near Davenport, left, discusses the circumstances of a 1987 plane crash she survived on Blyn Mountain with one of her rescuers, Robert Hamlin of Clallam County Search and Rescue, during a reunion in Port Angeles on Tuesday. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Vicki Parrish of Seven Bays near Davenport, left, discusses the circumstances of a 1987 plane crash she survived on Blyn Mountain with one of her rescuers, Robert Hamlin of Clallam County Search and Rescue, during a reunion in Port Angeles on Tuesday. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Survivor of 1987 Blyn Mountain crash meets rescuer

Night a ‘pivot point’ in her life

PORT ANGELES — Vicki Parrish will never forget the fateful night in 1987 when her life changed forever — a night when her life could have ended.

Parrish was one of the two people who survived the crash of a small plane on the side of Blyn Mountain, which straddles the Clallam and Jefferson county line on the Miller Peninsula southeast of Sequim Bay.

It is a mountain notorious for killing aviators who fail to clear the 2,000-foot ridge line.

Among those taking part in their rescue was Robert Hamlin, who was county emergency services coordinator and a member of Clallam County Search and Rescue, and, at the time, a captain with the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office.

Hamlin, now 82 and retired from the business, met with Parrish on Tuesday, more than 34 years after the Cessna 172 clipped the treetops on Nov. 18, 1987, and tumbled nose down into the forest below.

The pair wasted no time swapping details and remembrances of the incident. Parrish, then of Spokane and now living in Seven Bays, and the pilot, Stan Lebow of Redmond, were both seriously injured but walked on their own to a point where they could be rescued.

Parrish, 39 at the time, and Lebow, then 43, were flying back from dinner in Friday Harbor en route to Renton when the incident occurred. They were the only two on board the four-seat plane with Parrish sitting in front next to Lebow at the controls.

“I had enough time to go ‘Oh my God, Stan,’ and we were hitting the trees,” Parrish said of the moments before the 1987 crash. “The only thing I can remember is when we hit the trees.”

Hamlin told her she was lucky to have survived in the first place, and even luckier that there were witnesses to the incident who were able to contact authorities right away and lead rescuers to the site near a logging road on the flanks of Blyn Mountain.

He said the peak southwest of Port Townsend had been the site of numerous aviation incidents and that Parrish’s crash was one of the very few with survivors.

Parrish said she had avoided returning to the Olympic Peninsula in the years since the crash, but she and a friend were visiting the area for a short vacation, coincidentally staying at a resort on Discovery Bay in the shadow of Blyn Mountain.

Because of her proximity to the summit, she said it was time to learn more about that night and perhaps touch base with those involved in the incident.

One stop was at the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office to see what information might be available.

After a bit of checking around by the department’s staff, a Tuesday meeting with Hamlin was arranged in the office of Sheriff Bill Benedict.

“It’s awesome,” she said of the reunion. “What’s the likelihood that this would happen?

“It’s a special moment for me.”

To remind her of how close she came to death, Parrish constantly carries a tattered and taped-up newspaper article from the Peninsula Daily News that tells the story.

It is a cherished possession.

“I’ll tell you, that article has been all over the world, and I’ve never gone anywhere without it,” she said of the clipping. “Because somewhere, inevitably, I’ll be with people who didn’t know me back then.”

Hamlin told Parrish that holding onto that article was an indication of how important that night was to her.

“Our life gives us pivot points, and that was a pivot point which was forever for your life,” Hamlin said.

He suggested to Parrish that she should visit the area of the plane crash, if possible, to bring a sense of closure to the event.

“I think you’ll find that to be a real useful thing,” he told her.

Parrish said meeting with one of her rescuers was part of her effort to bring a sense of finality to a night that changed her life.

“That’s why it was so important for me to find somebody, to meet somebody,” Parrish said.

“This truly was a miracle.”

Search and rescue personnel seldom get to see the final outcomes from their efforts, Hamlin said. He added that it was a treat to see Parrish and to learn of what had happened to her since the crash.

“We rarely, rarely have this opportunity, especially this many years later,” he said. “This is a rare situation.

“You put so much of that stuff away and you just don’t even think about it. And now all of a sudden it’s right there in front of you.”

________

Photojournalist Keith Thorpe can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 59050, or at kthorpe@peninsuladailynews.com.

The Nov. 19, 1987, edition of the Peninsula Daily News carries an article about the Blyn Mountain plane crash — an article still carried by crash survivor Vicki Parrish.

The Nov. 19, 1987, edition of the Peninsula Daily News carries an article about the Blyn Mountain plane crash — an article still carried by crash survivor Vicki Parrish.

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