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Panama crash survivor, 12, back home in Calif.; she remembers little, mother says
Crash Survivor NY10 5448241
In this photo provided by Valerie Lewis, Francesca Lewis, left, the 12-year-old girl who was the sole survivor of a plane crash in Panama, is photographed with her sister Rose at the Los Angeles International airport upon her arrival on Friday, Jan. 4, 2008. Lewis remembers little about the Dec. 23 crash that killed her 13-year-old friend, Talia Klein, Klein's father, Michael Klein, 37, a prominent businessman from Santa Barbara, and Panamanian pilot Edwin Lasso, 23. Francesca was on vacation with the Kleins when their Cessna 172 went down. - photo by Associated Press
    LOS ANGELES — A 12-year-old girl who was the sole survivor of a plane crash in Panama is ‘‘doing quite well’’ following her return to California, while dealing with the devastating loss of her close friend, her mother said Tuesday.
    Francesca Lewis of Santa Barbara has been resting and going on short outings since her return Friday night with her parents, her mother, Valerie Lewis, told The Associated Press in a telephone.
    Francesca remembers little about the Dec. 23 crash that killed her friend, Talia Klein, 13; Klein’s father, Michael Klein, 37, a prominent businessman from Santa Barbara; and Panamanian pilot Edwin Lasso, 23.
    Francesca was on vacation with the Kleins when their Cessna 172 went down. Investigators believe the plane hit a tree during bad weather and crashed on the jungle-covered flanks of the Baru volcano, 270 miles west of Panama City.
    ‘‘They were in the clouds and she remembers trees came up suddenly,’’ said Lewis. Over the next two and a-half days Lewis said her daughter drifted in and out of consciousness while trapped in the wreckage.
    Lewis said the time between when news broke that the plane was missing and when Francesca was found was ‘‘every mother’s worst nightmare.’’ She said the family ‘‘alternated between trying to be as positive as we could’’ and despair.
    Miraculously, Francesca suffered no broken bones. She had hypothermia and only minor abrasions and bruises, her mother said.
    Lewis described a dramatic and terrifying time when rescuers finally reached Francesca.
    ‘‘From the time they found the plane, the rescuers did everything they could to keep her awake. They fed her sugar cane and tried to entertain her,’’ said Lewis.
    She said driving rain and high winds prevented a second rescue party from reaching them quickly. The rescue involved a harrowing trip down the mountain where the plane wreckage was found.
    While thrilled their daughter was alive, Lewis said it was a bittersweet ending because of the devastating loss of the Kleins.
    ‘‘It’s hard to even put words to it. It’s a huge loss and it’s going to be a long time of grieving and trying to heal,’’ she said.

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