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

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

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 was from Richmond, B.C., 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 had been 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 and Ryan were married last year and were 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 who 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)

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.

Wilk grew up in South Africa before moving to Canada, Pashley said

He said the taekwondo community has lost a “fantastic” athlete and a caring teacher. 

“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.”

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board are 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. 

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