British Columbia

B.C. woman killed in Alaskan floatplane crash remembered as 'nicest person ever'

Elsa Wilk, a marketing director and black belt in taekwondo, was among six people killed after two floatplanes collided over Alaska on Monday.

Elsa Wilk, 37, her American husband Ryan, 39, and brother, Louis Botha, 46, were among 6 killed Monday

Elsa Wilk, 37, has been identified as the Canadian who died in Monday's floatplane collision in Alaska. (Elsa Wilk/Github)

Friends are remembering the Canadian woman killed in Monday's floatplane collision in Alaska as an accomplished taekwondo martial artist looking forward to the next stage of her life. 

Elsa Wilk, 37, who grew up in South Africa but lived in Port Coquitlam, B.C., was named as one of six people killed after two sightseeing planes collided above open water in Alaska.

Among the dead are her husband, Ryan Wilk, 39, of Utah, as well as her brother, Louis Botha, 46, of San Diego. 

The Wilks were passengers on the cruise ship Royal Princess, which was on a seven-day trip from Vancouver to Anchorage operated by Princess Cruises.

Frank Lerch, who has known Elsa for six years through practising taekwondo, said she had married Ryan last year and the couple was planning a move to Salt Lake City soon. 

"She quit her job, saying she wanted to live ... and enjoy her life before she makes the big move," Lerch said. "That's [when this] happened. We're totally shocked."

Elsa Wilk was an accomplished taekwondo artist, regularly participating in competitions. (Elsa Wilk/Facebook)

Lerch said Elsa, who had worked as a marketing director for various tech companies in Vancouver, was a black belt in taekwondo and had participated in many competitions.

"I saw her flexibility [when] she made a split in the air ... [it made me] work hard on myself to be better," he said. 

Lerch said Elsa was a fierce competitor, but was always laughing and always had a kind word. 

"When you can kick someone in the face and still call her a friend..." he said. "She was the nicest person ever."

A cruise ship docked in Ketchikan, Alaska. The passengers on the two floatplanes that collided on Monday were passengers on a cruise. (Mike Zimmer/CBC)

'She touched so many lives'

Mark Pashley met Wilk around 2010 when he began practising taekwondo. Although she was experienced in the sport, she was always happy to help new people, he said.

"She was very professional, very dedicated at taekwondo, an amazing athlete," he said.

"It just brings it back to you that life is so fragile," Pashley said. "She was far younger than me and you don't expect to be losing people like that and in such tragic circumstances."

Mark Pashley, centre, said Elsa Wilk, right, was dedicated to taekwondo. (Submitted by Mark Pashley)

In a Facebook message to CBC News, Brianne Rigetti described Wilk as a "fierce friend and competitor with a strong work ethic.

"I am so fortunate to have called her my friend, to have traveled and competed with her and to have shared a part of my life with her," Rigetti said.

"She touched so many lives that are better for meeting her and there are a lot of people who lost an amazing friend, competitor, teammate and companion."

Ryan Wilk also had roots in Canada — he was a vice-president with Vancouver-based company NuData Security, which is owned by Mastercard.

"He has been a cherished member of the team and will be deeply missed by colleagues," a company spokesperson said in an email, adding he had worked with the company since 2014.

"We extend our most heartfelt sympathies to Ryan's family and friends."

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, which also injured 10 people. Investigators have requested flight tracking data and want to talk to the surviving pilot, passengers, plus the floatplane owners and other witnesses. 

Brianne Rigetti says she was fortunate to have called Wilk her friend. (Supplied by Brianne Rigetti)

With files from Andrea Ross and Yvette Brend