‘A hole in our hearts’: Community mourns the loss of local activist killed in seaplane crash

SPOKANE, Wash.  — The woman who started the Carl Maxey Center is gone. Sandy Williams was killed in a seaplane crash over the weekend.

She, along with her partner Pat Hicks, were on a seaplane that crashed into the Puget Sound on Sunday. Only one body was recovered, and the coast guard has now suspended the search for survivors.

The community is mourning the loss of a local civil rights activist who people say always stood up for others and fought for justice.

There’s now a growing memorial at the Carl Maxey Center as people pay their respects to the respected leader.

“Her legacy is here, and it’s not going to go away,” said Dean Lynch. He’s the former president of the Spokane County Human Rights Task Force who worked closely with Williams.

Her legacy is now memorialized in a growing table of flowers in full bloom at the community center she brought to life.

“She was unapologetic about uplifting the black community,” said Betsy Wilkerson, a current City Council member who also was friends with and worked alongside Williams.

Wilkerson says she uplifted people at the Carl Maxey Center and started “The Black Lens,” which is the only African American focused newspaper in Eastern Washington.

“She’s 10 years younger than me, but she was a mentor,” Lynch added.

Lynch first met Williams 30 years ago during a statewide human rights campaign. Their friendship grew as he watched her fight for justice.

“Sandy didn’t need to put on a show,” he said. “She was who she is.”

Who the fierce advocate is will never be replaced.

“We have lost a visionary and a voice, and that’s a hole in our hearts that can’t be filled,” Wilkerson said.

For those who knew her, there’s still hope on the horizon in the work she was committed to.

“Whenever we support the marginalized in our community, we are helping to support Sandy’s legacy,” Lynch concluded. “I’m sad, but I’m hopeful. I know this isn’t the end.”

Organizers say the Carl Maxey Center isn’t going anywhere. The resource will continue to serve the community in East Central. A public memorial service for Williams is being arranged for a later date.

Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward ordered that all flags at city facilities be lowered to half-staff in remembrance of Sandy Williams. Flags will remain at half-staff until sunset on Friday.

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