Troopers in St. Mary's, Alaska, say a 26-year-old woman was killed this week after she crashed her ATV into a tree while drunk, reports Alaska Public Media. But Melanie Coffee's death has another tragic twist, thanks to a different crash near St. Mary's less than a year ago. That one involved a Cessna, and Coffee was one of six people to survive when the plane went down in December. Among the four people killed in the crash was her 5-month-old son. Coffee was hailed as a hero afterward because she set off on foot through the snow to get help. She made it about a mile before being found, reports AP.
In fact, on Thursday morning, a village council leader publicly praised Coffee for her actions at a ceremony—and then informed the stunned crowd that she had died the previous day, reports Alaska Dispatch News. “She is the one that saved other people on that plane despite the fact of the loss of her child,” said the local leader. “We were hoping that she would be here today. We know that she’s with us here in spirit.” A state trooper says it was actually another pilot, not Coffee, who got rescuers to the site, but she will get a posthumous award for her actions. (Another fatal accident in Alaska resulted in a bizarre case of mistaken identity.)