Bond still strong between 1963 crash survivors

Published Nov. 10, 1993|Updated Oct. 10, 2005

Thirty years hasn't weakened the bond between a man and a woman who survived a small plane crash and endured seven weeks in a snowy wilderness before their rescue.

Helen Klaben Kahn was 21 when she hitched a ride with Ralph Flores, then 42, from Alaska to California.

They crashed in the Yukon on Feb. 4, 1963.

Flores is retired on a farm in Missouri with his wife, Teresa. Kahn traveled from her home in Palo Alto, Calif.

Their visit last week was their first in 10 years.

"We just adore each other in a filial way, like father and daughter," said Kahn.

In the crash, Flores suffered a broken jaw and nose, two broken ribs, and deep facial cuts. Kahn had a broken arm, broken toes and a split chin.

The first nine days they ate canned sardines, fruit cocktail and vitamin pills. Later they survived on toothpaste and snow.

By the time they were rescued on March 25, Flores had gone from 174 pounds to 138 pounds. Kahn had dropped from 140 pounds to 96 pounds.

Despite his injuries, Flores built shelters, constructed snowshoes from bent twigs, made slingshot weapons, tramped a huge SOS into the snow, made scouting trips and helped Kahn through the ordeal.

"He was just so determined to get us out of there," she said. "I'm still so amazed at everything he had the energy to do."

Faith played a major role when Flores found a Bible among the wreckage.

"He made me read it _ out loud," Kahn said. "He said, "Read the Bible. We won't be rescued until we're finished reading it.' I said, "All one thousand sixty pages of it?' "

Three days after finishing the Bible, they were rescued, she said.