Recovering from plane crash, Bach returns to ‘Seagull’

SEATTLE — Richard Bach has returned to his famous inspirational novella “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” as he recovers from a near-fatal plane crash.

The 76-year-old author told The Seattle Times that the book originally had four parts — not the three that were published in 1970 in what became an international best-seller. But after four months in a Seattle hospital with massive brain, chest and spine injuries, Bach finished the fourth part and sent it off to his publisher a few weeks ago.

In the new section, the flock struggles to find meaning. They first worship Jonathan, then write him off as a myth as years pass before his return.

He credits his wife, Sabryna Bach, 42, with supporting and inspiring him during his recovery. They live on Orcas Island.

Bach was piloting a single-engine aircraft that clipped power lines and crashed on San Juan Island last August. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

Bach remained in a coma for more than a week. Brain injuries affected his ability to walk, speak and perform the most basic of tasks. Until last month, Bach shuttled between the hospital and a nearby recovery center.

He credited his survival to Airlift Northwest, the medical-transport service that flew him to Harborview. Chris Martin, executive director of Airlift Northwest, said the emergency helicopter reached the injured Bach after a 12-minute flight from Bellingham, one of the chopper’s hubs. The flight to Harborview took 18 minutes, he said.

On board, Bach was treated by critical-care nurses.

“He was getting the care he would be getting in the intensive-care unit as we were flying from point A to point B,” Martin said. “For Richard, everything worked the way it should have. He crashed, someone saw it happen, they called 911, medics responded, we responded, we got him stabilized as the best we could and got him there.”

Dr. Ron Maier, surgeon-in-chief at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, said had it not been for Airlift Northwest, Bach would not have made it to the hospital’s trauma center within a critical time period.

Bach was so grateful that he helped establish a fund, called Gift of Wings, to help Harborview and Airlift Northwest.

Bach’s work on the book has given him the confidence to get his recovery completely on track, his wife said.

“He saw that his intellect was untouched (by the crash),” she said. “After that, he did a 180.”

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