A woman who met her partner on the WestJet Flight to St. Maarten that nearly ended in disaster, has given birth to a baby boy, with the man she met on the three-seconds-from-catastrophe flight.
Carter Gooderham Davis, 7 pounds 8 ounces, was born on Canada Day, July 1 in Edmonton, Alberta to Natasha Mackesey, 30, and Ben Davis, 31.
It “goes to show that life and love does happen when you least expect it,” Ben told me in an email.
On March 7, 2017, Ben and his friend Rob King boarded Westjet Flight 2652 in Toronto. As they found their seats, middle and aisle in row 13, they were delighted to discover a pretty young woman seated at the window. Natasha was a fellow Canadian returning to work in St. Maarten as a chef on a luxury yacht.
“For once it appeared the dice of seat gambling had rolled in my favor,” Ben said.
Natasha had a different reaction.
“I looked up to see these two massive guys coming down the aisle and all I could think to myself was ‘please don’t sit in my row!’ But there they were, setting up shop beside me,” she told me.
With Rob in the middle seat acting as wingman the three struck up a conversation that lasted for the much of the flight. So taken was Ben with Natasha that he failed to notice the airplane was dangerously close to the water as it approached Princess Juliana International Airport.
St. Maarten’s Runway 10 is famed worldwide for the approach over beautiful Maho Beach. (See my story on this aviation geek mecca for Air & Space magazine here.) People on the ground are thrilled by the planes passing close overhead. While airline passengers see the plane spotters and the curved shore of Maho Bay.
On March 7th however, rain and cloud meant that the beach was empty.
“The weather was awful with rain, strong winds and next to no visibility,” Ben recalled. But it was Natasha who noticed the plane’s unusually low altitude.
“I had already done this landing 4 times in the past couple months, so it was easy to realize that something was off about our approach,” she said. “We were way too close to the water.”
“As the rocks and buildings on the nearby shore began to fly by at eye level, the plane suddenly accelerated and began to ascend sharply,” Ben said.
At exactly that moment, aviation photographer Christine Garner was on the roof of the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, a favorite spot for snapping photos of planes on approach. She saw the alarming sight of the Boeing 737 less than 50 feet above the sea and quickly captured an image as the plane began the go-around.
The impact when I first published Garner’s incredible photo on my blog was immediate.
The Canadian Transportation Safety Board began an investigation, concluding earlier this year that a lack of communication about deteriorating weather and errors by the crew and air traffic controllers allowed the airplane to get so close to water it was just seconds away from crashing.
After the go-around, the crew of WestJet Flight 2652 circled for a half hour and tried the approach again. Natasha said she was more frightened the second time.
“I was trying to remain calm and collected as I chatted with the guys but I had to take a couple deep breaths as we came over the highway just before landing,” she recalled.
For the trio in Row 13 and the other passengers on the flight, the story has a happy ending. Ben’s father, Steve Davis, a science teacher on the island was waiting at the arrivals area, ecstatic with relief at the sight of his son and Rob.
Retelling the story of how he met Natasha, Ben confesses to being frightened on WestJet flight 2652, but not about his safety, he was concerned he would not see Natasha again.
He need not have worried. They had a few dates during his stay on the island, she traveled to visit him in Canada in April, again in May and by June she had moved in with him in Edmonton.
When new grandpa Steve Davis first contacted me to tell me the unlikely follow-up to the harrowing WestJet flight, he joked that the baby should be named Martin. In a more serious vein he expressed an opinion I don’t usually hear from families who have had a brush with disaster. He thanked me for documenting the terrifying event that “helped bring two wonderful people together.” That is a sentiment he seems to share with Natasha.
“Love happens when we least expect it and everything in life happens for a reason,” she said.