Resolute crash survivor's mom speaks about recovery

The mother of both a survivor and a victim in the crash of First Air flight 6560 in the High Arctic last month is now speaking about her daughter's recovery.

The mother of both a survivor and a victim in the crash of First Air flight 6560 in the High Arctic last month is now speaking about her daughter's recovery.

Seven-year-old Gabrielle Pelky (right) survived the crash, but her sister Cheyenne Eckalook (left), did not. ((Photo supplied by Eckalook family))

Gabrielle Pelky, 7, managed to crawl from the wreckage of the Boeing 737-200 jet after it crashed into a hillside in Resolute, Nunavut. Twelve people died, including Pelky's six-year-old sister Cheyenne Eckalook.

Pelky and 23-year-old Carleton University graduate student Nicole Williamson, who was sitting two rows ahead, helped each other limp to a nearby hillside.

And it was the bond forged between the two, Brenda Eckalook said, that has been vital for Pelky's recovery.

"I think it's very important for Nicole and Gabrielle to keep that connection, for them to relate to and heal together," said Eckalook.

Williamson shared her story with CBC chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge on The National Monday. She spoke about hearing Pelky’s cries, which drove her to move from the debris of the plane.

"What got me to unbuckle my seatbelt and get up was that I heard Gabrielle not very far, and I heard her calling out and crying," Williamson told Mansbridge.

Nicole Williamson, seen here in an interview with the CBC's Peter Mansbridge, was one of three survivors in the Resolute Bay, Nunavut, plane crash. ((CBC))

"[Pelky] was just perfectly calm and I tell everyone, whenever I tell this story, that she rescued me just as much as I rescued her, because when we were waiting for the firemen to come, she talked to me and I talked to her," Williamson said. "We both kept each other warm."

Since the crash, Pelky and Williamson visited each other during their stays in an Ottawa hospital and Pelky has made a trip to see Williamson at her parents' Ottawa home.

Each is still recovering from their injuries. Pelky has a broken leg, while Williamson has a broken foot and fractured pelvis.

Survivors trying to get back to normal

Both still have some emotional scars, though, mourning others killed in the crash. That is especially the case for Pelky, who took some time to realize she had lost her sister.

Rescuers found 48-year-old geologist Robin Wyllie stunned and injured, but alive. ((photo supplied by Robin Wylie from a trip to Ellesmere and Axel Islands with the Geological Survey))

Amazingly, though, her mother said the little girl is back home in Iqaluit trying to live a normal life again.

"She just started school last week, Wednesday, and she's enjoying it, and meeting new friends," said Eckalook.

The family is still dealing with the loss of Cheyenne, which has devastated them, but they are also grateful one of the girls survived.

Robin Wyllie, a 48-year-old geologist and Williamson's colleague, is still recovering from a broken back, broken ribs, broken foot and collapsed lung.

All three survivors were rescued by soldiers who, by coincidence, were practising their response to a plane crash as part of the annual Operation Nanook.

The Transportation Safety Board started its Ottawa portion of the investigation into the Resolute crash Tuesday.