‘Hug your loved ones’: Family remembers final moments with Coeur d’Alene plane crash victims

SPOKANE, Wash. — It’s a phone call no parent should ever get. Your son and grandchildren were taken from this world after a terrifying plane crash.

Ellen Presley is mourning the loss of her son, Sean Fredrickson, and her three grandchildren. They were killed on Sunday in a plane crash over Lake Coeur d’Alene. The seaplane they were in collided with another plane. Eight people died.

Fredrickson was born in Spokane on Dec. 1, 1971. Presley, previously under the name Merriman, was married to Kevin Fredrickson.

“Sean was a great child,” said Presley. “He was fun. He was entertaining. He was independent, but he loved to make people laugh.”

The families have been apart of Spokane for at least seven generations. They moved when he was 7-years-old, but still considered Spokane home. A good portion of his family, including his mother, still lives in Spokane.

His great grandfather, James McGoldrick, is even on a Spokane building as he was one of the city’s founders.

“He loved his family and my family and his dad’s family so much,” she said. “He was so loved by both. The Fredrickson family took him under his wing. He was the light of their lives.”

Fredrickson was a natural athlete. He played baseball, soccer and golf. He went on to become a pro golfer for an Oregon country club. He was also a sectional president of the PGA in the Northwest division.

His kids and his wife, April, were his world.

“He adored his kids, absolutely — there wasn’t anything he wouldn’t have done for them,” Presley said. “I describe their relationship with Sean as playful and fun and silly.”

He had three children, two being stepchildren — Hayden Fredrickson, Quinn and Sofie Olsen.

They drove to Spokane from Oregon for the holiday weekend. The family spent Saturday at Priest Lake.

“He was sitting on a kayak next to the dock and all the kids had water guns and they were trying to squirt him and sink him,” Presley said, “and he would just pull a little farther back and laugh and laugh.”

The next day in Spokane, Fredrickson and his family went to Coeur d’Alene for the day. Ellen and her husband, Pat, stayed back so they could have a barbecue when they got back.

Little did they know, it was the last time they were going to see Sean, Hayden, Sofie and Quinn.

Waiting on the dock at Brooks Seaplane was Sean’s wife. The Presleys said the ride was supposed to be 20 minutes. His wife wasn’t on the plane.

“She [April] actually went down the row and hugged each kid, kind of jokingly, but said I’m not going to fly in that, but I want to also kiss you in case I don’t see you again,” Pat said.

When the plane didn’t come back, Presley said April thought they had mechanical trouble. They said his wife went for ice cream, came back and the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office was at the dock.

She called Ellen and asked for Pat. Sean’s wife broke the news and the family immediately went to Coeur d’Alene.

“We were in a little float plane office, I think hoping that that something happened, but knowing in your heart that there’s absolutely no hope,” Pat said.

Ellen said several things started going through her head.

“In my mind I’m thinking that it was quick. The kids didn’t even know,” she said. “They were smiling, they were laughing. They were having fun and it was quick and I have to believe that.”

The family has been reeling the tragedy for four days.

“Every minute of every day it starts to hit me,” Ellen said. “It takes your breath away.”

They’re taking this time to reflect on the memories and the inspiration they were to everyone.

“I hope Sean knows, you know, how inspiring he was and what an integral, important part of the golf industry he was,” Ellen explained.

As the family starts to go through the grieving process, they’re thinking about what Sean and the children would want them to do right now.

“They would want me to be silly. They would want me to be playful because that’s how they were,” Ellen said. “They’re wanting me to be happy. I know they are because that’s, like I said before, that’s how they are.”

There is one thing that is helping them wake up each day.

“What is saving them and saving us all is the smiles on all of their faces,” Ellen said. “That’s what we will remember. That this was a happy time for them.”

She has one message for everyone.

“Hug your loved ones and be playful and have fun,” Ellen said.

The family has set up a memorial scholarship for Hayden and Sean. It’ll eventually be open to athletes in Spokane and in Sean’s hometown.

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