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WILSON — News of an East Carolina University graduate student’s March 1 death in a Franklin County plane crash hit a group of former colleagues particularly hard.
Allison Forsythe, her best friend Jessica Kenny and her friend’s pilot boyfriend, Brian Sjostedt, were in a Cessna headed to Hilton Head, South Carolina, for spring break when the private aircraft crashed less than a minute after takeoff outside Louisburg, according to media reports. Federal authorities are investigating the crash, which killed all three occupants.
“She was so excited for graduation and this was her first plane ride, then this happens,” said Susan Myers, director of Pride Within Psychosocial Rehabilitation. “My heart breaks for her family. They were planning a graduation and now they are planning a funeral. I think that tears everyone up.”
The 26-year-old has spent a year interning for Pride, working with patients at the Wilson location and counseling individuals at the regional office under outpatient therapist Greta vanBree.
“She was sweet and shy, but in a disarming, charismatic way,” vanBree said. “She was very determined, professional and compassionate. She was the least judgmental person I’ve ever met. She had so much love and hope and concern for the people she worked with here and at our other location.”
Myers said Forsythe’s compassion stood out.
“She was always willing to listen and was a great communicator,” Myers recalled. “She had a good sense of humor and I know she was going to make a really good professional in the mental health field.”
Both women spoke with Forsythe last week and were greeted with her usual bubbly personality. When vanBree got the flu and told Forsythe she didn’t need to work on Friday because of it, the graduate student was concerned mostly about vanBree feeling better. News of the tragedy hit vanBree and Myers hard, but breaking the news to the clients was equally difficult.
“She was a great asset to us, always willing to do whatever needed to be done,” Myers said. “When my boss called me, I struggled to register what she was saying and telling 45 clients and staff about it was hard. They can sense when someone is real and genuine, and they all really liked her.”
VanBree said she will keep Forsythe with her in spirit through her career.
“She was so close to her finish line and this is just an awful tragedy,” she said. “It is so sad to see someone go, especially when she was really just beginning her life. Nothing will make it better except time.”