EP 63: Crashing Into Life with Kendra St. Charles
Kendra St. Charles’ life changed in an instant in 1992 when she found herself among the survivors of USAir Flight 405 out of LaGuardia. Hear about Kendra’s harrowing experience and how she turned that near-tragedy into a vehicle for helping and inspiring others and improving airline response to accidents.
Kendra St.Charles was living a life similar to others. A single mother and sales representative for an eye glass company, she had divided her time between her family and her optical clients in Northern Ohio. On March 22, 1992, this normal life was altered dramatically.
On her way home from a New York business conference, her plane -US Airways Flight 405-crashed in a fiery ball into Flushing Bay just off La Guardia airport runway 13. She was lucky to escape the burning wreckage because she was propelled from the aircraft into the icy cold water of Flushing Bay, still in her seat, at the bottom of the bay. Twenty-seven people lost their lives in the crash. She was one of the twenty-four survivors.
St.Charles had second and third degree burns, severe smoke inhalation and a punctured lung. She had no identification on her, was intubated and unable to talk her family, thus not knowing if she had even lived.
After a lengthy recovery, she used her personal experience to shape post crash protocol and encourage legislation for humanitarian transportation accident response. Kendra speaks to groups of all sizes and backgrounds on survivor-ship, crisis management and finding a new life from change.
The take-aways for Kendra are life lessons for all adversity. She poured herself into helping others, especially crash survivors and families of loved ones killed in an aviation disaster. She and other survivors founded the National Air Disaster Alliance (NADA) in 1995. St.Charles testified in congress to encourage the legislation which became the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1996. She continues to speak to audiences with a message of hope in overcoming life’s crashes whatever they may be.