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‘It’s overwhelming’: Mother, grandmother of man, 3 kids killed in CdA plane crash recalls their lives

UPDATED: Thu., Sept. 3, 2020

The effort to recover the bodies of those killed in a Sunday airplane collision over Lake Coeur d'Alene is show on Monday.  (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)
The effort to recover the bodies of those killed in a Sunday airplane collision over Lake Coeur d'Alene is show on Monday. (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)

Sean Fredrickson and his three children were planning to take a boat cruise around Lake Coeur d’Alene over the Fourth of July weekend. But at the last minute, the always adventurous family decided to take a seaplane trip instead.

“They were so thrilled to be going on the plane,” said Fredrickson’s mother, Ellen Merriman Presley, of Spokane. “You’d think kids would be scared, but they were just as bright and joyful as he was.”

On Sunday afternoon, the de Havilland seaplane Fredrickson, his son Hayden, 16, and his stepchildren Quinn, 11, and Sofie, 15, were riding in collided with another plane over the lake.

Sean, his children, pilot Neil Lunt and an unidentified male passenger were killed in the crash. So were two people in the other plane, who have not yet been identified.

Presley said she got a call from Fredrickson’s wife and Quinn and Sofie’s mother, April, later that afternoon. There had been an accident, she told Presley, but no one quite knew what had happened.

The family waited while Kootenai County officials searched for answers.

Presley later learned from a friend watching the news that there were no survivors.

A spur-of-the-moment seaplane adventure was exactly the kind of thing Fredrickson and his kids would have loved, Presley said. The family was vivacious, active and “just plain silly,” always wrestling one another and making each other laugh.

Fredrickson lived in Oregon for much of his life, but he had a deep connection to Spokane, where he was born.

He moved away when he was 7 years old, attended the University of Oregon, always remained a die-hard Ducks fan and attended every Portland Timbers game with Hayden and Quinn.

His work as a golf professional in the Portland suburb of Lake Oswego kept him away from home – he often joked he had 400 bosses throughout the industry, and he was frequently too busy to slow down. But he returned to visit Spokane whenever he could.

“He would have moved here forever if he could have,” said Presley. “He loved Spokane, absolutely loved it and missed it always.”

Fredrickson’s kids were in Spokane visiting their grandmother and her husband, Pat, last weekend, as they did every summer. Fredrickson and his wife decided to tag along this year.

Sean’s grandfather, Dr. Ed Fredrickson, was a longtime Spokane dentist and a devoted member of the Spokane Country Club. Presley said she believes he would have been tremendously proud of Sean’s contributions to the industry.

Though Fredrickson and his parents left Spokane when he was young, he was always surrounded by “so much love” from his countless family members back in the city, Presley said.

He dedicated much of his career to the world of golf, but Sean’s first love was soccer. He shared a deep passion for the game with his son, Hayden, who was a rising high school soccer star looking forward to playing for a college team in a few short years. The two “ate, slept and breathed” soccer, Presley said, and any traveling family member made sure they brought back a scarf from the local team for Hayden’s collection.

Hayden was the “light of Sean’s life,” Presley said, and a source of inspiration for his soccer teammates. He was very close to his mom, Alix, and his friends, who Presley said have been at Alix’s house keeping her company and grieving together in the days since Hayden’s death.

Sofie was a “gorgeous, stunning girl with a ton of friends,” Presley said. A lacrosse player, she kept up with her older stepbrother and stepfather without missing a beat. She was almost as tall, if not taller, than Sean and always participated in family roughhousing, often tackling her stepdad to the ground, Presley said.

When the family came to visit this summer, Sofie was eager to show off her new learning permit and the driving skills she’d learned. Presley said she was nervous getting into the car with Sofie behind the wheel at first, then quickly saw she really was as good as she said she was. She was about to turn 16 in August and had “so much to look forward to,” Presley said.

Quinn, the youngest of the three, looked up to his older siblings immensely. A bright, happy kid who was always smiling, his passion was building complex creations with Legos. Presley said his room was always full of the tiny, colorful bricks, and it was a challenge not to step on any when you entered.

He loved biking – he had just gotten a new mountain bike for his 11th birthday. During a long walk with Presley and her husband this summer, she asked Quinn what he wanted to be when he grew up.

“He told me, ‘a forensic specialist,’” Presley said. “What kind of 11-year-old knows that? He was incredible.”

Fredrickson was a man who fiercely loved his family and was fiercely loved by them, Presley said. That was never more apparent to her than after his death, as the outpouring of love and grief rolled in from all over.

“It’s overwhelming, and it’s just awful that it takes something like this to bring that out,” Presley said. “But that outpouring is what’s going to pull this family through.”

Presley said she is comforted knowing that whatever happened in that plane, the family was together and still full of joy.

“And I know they’re all playing soccer together in heaven, too,” Presley said.

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