Karen Alexander and her year-and-half-old German Shepherd, Sockeye, are training in an attempt to follow in her father's shoes — one rescue mission at a time.
Two years after the plane crash north of Morton that killed three men, the daughter of the man who piloted the plane is working to train her German shepherd to become a search and rescue dog as a way to honor the community members who aided in the search for the plane’s wreckage.
It was their efforts, she says, that ultimately gave her family the opportunity to find closure.
On Wednesday, the day before the two-year anniversary of her father’s death, Karen Alexander and her year-and-half-old German Shepherd, Sockeye, ran around her property demonstrating the training it takes to become a K-9 team.
“I’ve been wanting to do something for all the people out there that day,” she said. “When I got Sockeye, I thought, ‘This is it.’ “
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The plane, owned by Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute in Chehalis and piloted by Ken Sabin, 70, of Chehalis, was traveling from Chehalis to Lewiston, Idaho. The two passengers, PCLI laser technician Rod Rinta, 43, of Chehalis, and Dr. Paul Shenk, 59, an eye surgeon from Woodland, along with the pilot, were all killed.
When the plane initially disappeared into a heavily wooded portion of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, a massive search and rescue effort led by the sheriff’s office saturated the area as family and friends of the three men hoped and prayed for a miracle.
Eventually the wreckage was located nine miles northeast of Morton. The site was accessible only by foot, and rugged terrain meant it took six days to fully recover the wreckage.
While the search teams did not find the men alive, Alexander said, locating their remains gave her and her family closure; because as she explained, not knowing is always worse.
“It was so selfless of them,” she said. “Our county is full of selfless people.”
Before her father’s death, she said, she did not realize how many people he impacted during his lifetime. About 1,000 people attended his funeral.
After his death, community members began to share their stories with the family about how Sabin had helped them. Many told stories about Sabin when he worked at Security State Bank, where he worked for more than 30 years, giving people financial chances that others wouldn’t; in turn allowing them life opportunities other bankers would have refused.
Most of all, she said, she realized that one person can change the course of many lives.
“He lived big,” Alexander said. “When you’re trying to follow in those shoes, you can’t waste a minute.”
After the search and rescue crews located the crash site on Oct. 26, 2010, it was a K-9 team that ultimately found the remains of the men.
When Alexander got involved in search and rescue after purchasing Sockeye a year and a half ago, she ended up meeting the woman and the dog who located her father’s remains.
Like that K-9 team did for her, Alexander said she hopes to one day provide that type of closure for other families.
Though she and Sockeye are not certified as a K-9 team yet, a few weeks ago, she assisted in the search and rescue mission for the 79-year-old man who wandered away while picking mushrooms near Randle. Sockeye did not participate; Alexander went with another K-9 team.
There are numerous search and rescue teams in Lewis County, and volunteers are needed to fill a variety of roles, Alexander said.
Meanwhile, Alexander and Sockeye will continue training in an attempt to follow in her father’s shoes — one rescue mission at a time.