Rachel Sanchez never thought she would be repaying Vincent Hannay for the education fund he helped set up for her son after her husband, Rick, died in a motor vehicle accident six years ago. But, on August 13, when Ms. Sanchez's mother-in-law called to tell her Mr. Hannay was critically injured in a grisly plane crash, Ms. Sanchez was happy to oblige.
She launched an online fundraiser, hoping to collect money for Mr. Hannay and his family during his recovery.
"I was kind of crossing my fingers for maybe $500 and it just grew, and it grew, and it grew," said Ms. Sanchez. In less than two weeks, family, friends and anonymous donors helped surpass her goal of $10,000 – and the campaign is continuing for 32 more days.
She said she hopes the money will help the Vancouver-area Hannay family with living expenses as they stay by Vince's bedside in a hospital in Kelowna – or any medical costs not covered by insurance.
"He's got a long road ahead of him," said Ms. Sanchez. "It's going to be a lot of healing and a lot of time and a lot of change in his life. I mean, he will be forever altered by this."
On August 13, Mr. Hannay was one of four passengers on board a twin-engine Piper PA-30 Comanche aircraft when it slammed into a steep hillside near the old Brenda Mines shortly after lift-off from Penticton. Emergency workers found Vancouver resident Jayson Dallas Wesley Smith, 30, dead at the scene. Helicopters flew three critically-injured survivors to nearby hospitals, but 24-year-old Lauren Patricia Sewell – Mr. Smith's girlfriend – succumbed to her injuries later in the week.
After the crash, Mr. Hannay was in a medically induced coma, said Ms. Sanchez, but he has since regained consciousness, started to breathe on his own, and recognized and smiled at his mother. A few days ago, he moved from the hospital's intensive care unit into a semi-private room, according to a post on a get-well-soon Facebook page created for him.
Ms. Sanchez met Mr. Hannay through her late husband. The two had grown up in the same townhouse complex in Vancouver, she said. Mr. Hannay attended the couple's wedding.
In February 2006, two years after their wedding and five months into their son's life, Mr. Sanchez died. The 31-year-old man and his brother-in-law were riding their motorcycles on the Sea to Sky highway, said Ms. Sanchez – neither was speeding or being reckless. They were struck head-on by oncoming vehicles, she said. Mr. Sanchez died instantly, she said, though her brother survived after multiple surgeries and long stints of rehabilitation.
Mr. Hannay and his mother supported her financially and emotionally during this difficult time, she said. They helped collect $20,000 for an education account for her now almost seven-year-old son, Coen.
Ms. Sanchez said she spent most of her time after the accident in shock, functioning on a primal basis and not realizing what the Hannays were doing. But now, she said, as a single mother, not having to worry about funding Coen's post-secondary education is a relief.
"You can't even put it into words how much that makes a difference," she said.
She is hoping the funds from her online campaign will provide the same type of relief to the Hannay family. "It's one thing that they don't have to think about," she said, "because their whole life has changed."
Though she has not been able to visit Vincent, she said, his family has expressed their gratitude to her.
"It's just interesting the way it's kind of all aligned," she said.