Christie Brinkley is reflecting on the helicopter crash of 25 years ago that nearly took her life and those of five others.
"This happened 25 years ago today," the East End supermodel, 65, posted on Instagram Monday evening, with a photo of her cover story in the April 18, 1994, issue of People magazine that covered the near-tragedy, "and not a day goes by that I have not counted my blessing for being alive. I know for a fact that tomorrow is not a guarantee and that each day is a gift and an opportunity to make sure that everybody we love knows it!" A dozen yellow heart emoji followed.
Brinkley, then 40 and married to pop star Billy Joel, was in the San Juan Mountains near Telluride, Colorado, heli-skiing with three friends: Ricky Taubman, a Los Angeles real estate developer and Brinkley's future third husband, then 45; Sandra Will Carradine, then in her mid-40s, an arts-foundation co-founder and estranged wife of actor Keith Carradine; and the Carradines' 11-year-old son, Cade. Also in the Aerospatiale AS350 B2 helicopter were pilot Tom Sharp, then 35, and ski guide Mike Friedman, then 37, of the company Helitrax.
After two ski runs and en route to a higher peak, "We just dropped," Brinkley told People in 1994. "All of a sudden it was like someone cut the cords to the elevator, like the mountain was sucking us in, zooming into us. … It happened so fast. There was a tremendous noise, and we landed really hard."
After crashing, the helicopter repeatedly rolled over as it slid down a 200-foot incline, leaving 300 feet of debris, according to the National Transportation Safety Board report. "Just boom, boom, boom, pow!" Brinkley told People. "I would look out the window and see sky-mountain-snow, sky-mountain-snow. … All of a sudden I said, 'Alexa,' " Brinkley recalled, thinking of her and Joel's daughter, then 8. "I suddenly thought, 'I am her mother, and she needs me. I am not going to die. I refuse. I won't.' With each blow I would call out her name. It was just machinery and me — 'Alexa!' Smash! 'Alexa!' Smash!"
Brinkley and the Carradines escaped with minor injuries, Sharp with more serious ones. Taubman suffered fractured ribs, a collapsed lung and a broken collarbone, while Friedman went uninjured. Brinkley was discharged from the hospital a day later.
Following their rescue, Brinkley was reunited with Alexa, who had been staying with family friends nearby, and later with Joel, who rushed in from a Chicago concert date. "Seeing my daughter was the sweetest thing in the world," Brinkley said in 1994. "Everything I had dreamt of when I was going through the ordeal was that. She came over to me, put her hands on my face and hugged me. I told her I loved her so much."