Cessna 172 one-year anniversary: Life without Salau hasn’t been the easiest

Emosi Lutu, Ulamila Lutu and Adi Moala Lutu, the family of late trainee pilot Merelesita Lutu. Picture: FT FILE/ATU RASEA

AS Fijians remember the anniversary of the fateful journey of the Pacific Flying School Cessna 172 flight today, the Lutu family of Tamavua in Suva is still trying to live life as normal as they had before the unfortunate event of February 26, 2018.

The Cessna 172 flight began its journey at 7.30am on this day a year ago and was last located in Korotari, outside Labasa at about 12.30pm.

After days of joint rescue efforts by Police, officers from the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, the National Fire Authority and villagers of Dogoru in Macuata, the plane was found in the Delaikoro mountain range in Macuata.

The plane crash claimed the lives of Merelesita Salau Lutu, an aviation student and her flight instructor, Iliesa Tawalo.

Salau, as she was fondly known to many, was the baby of the family being the youngest child.

Looking back today, her sister Ulamila Lutu says life has never been easy for them as a family.

“Life without Salau hasn’t been the easiest but we’ve had to take it day by day as a family and we have struggled but we continue to try and find a new normal in our lives,” Ulamila said.

“Her absence in our daily lives is a reminder of the huge space that now fills our family since her passing. However, we have so much to be grateful for since her passing and mostly with the family and friends we’ve been able to reconnect with, and especially our faith in God which has been the defining factor in holding us through this past year.

“As her parents and older siblings, we invested in Salau’s education, upbringing and her ambition to be a pilot.”

However, after tragedy struck, they were abruptly halted in their shared vision for their sister and it had somewhat forced them to look at their own paths and pursue their own ambitions.

She said they had had to also look towards a future without Salau in it.

“It was a hard and painful transition for us as a family,” she said.

“The support of our close family and friends and our church has been a pillar of strength for us.

“Dealing with the loss of a loved one is an awful thing for anyone to endure and even though it’s part of life, it never is easy, especially when it’s someone so close or who passed so young, like Salau.

“Salau was the baby of our family and she was the glue that kept daily life interesting with her young spirit and enthusiasm for life, and her positivity for the future. Her loss taught us that life is fleeting and we should live life to our fullest because we do not know what our tomorrow brings with it so it’s so important to make each moment and day count with the ones we cherish,” Ulamila said.

Pick up a copy of today’s edition of The Fiji Times to read of the untold stories of that fateful day, and the days after as we remember the one-year anniversary of the crash of the Cessna 172 aircraft.

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