HONOLULU (KHON2) — A Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant working toward her commercial pilot’s license is being remembered as a loving daughter and friend. McKenna Vierra, 27, was already a cancer survivor but on Monday, July 26, tragedy struck while she was on a trip to Alaska.    

Vierra shared her Large Type B Lymphoma diagnosis in a testimony video to her fellow KROC Church members. She said, “For a moment I sat in disbelief and I asked God, ‘why me?’ But then I heard him say, ‘why not you?’”

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Her mother, Liane Vierra, said her daughter’s journey to beat cancer inspired many around her.

“She was going through treatments beginning August of last year but during the times when she felt OK with treatment, she went ahead and got her instrument license,” Liane Vierra said. “And so as you can see nothing will stop her.”

Vierra beat the deadly illness within months of her diagnosis in fall 2020. Her mother said Vierra loved to fly. She worked as a Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant for four years and most recently was working toward her commercial pilot’s license.

Her journey soaring the sky sadly came to an end Monday. Vierra was involved in a deadly plane crash in Alaska. A 23-year-old pilot instructor from Anchorage, Dakota Bauder, also died in the accident.

“The pilot’s wife informed us the news, and it was shocking, you know, our hearts were crushed, for a moment there we just sat in disbelief,” Liane Vierra said. “I don’t know how to describe the feeling but it’s something that you never want to hear.”

Liane Vierra said her daughter was getting flight hours toward her commercial pilot’s license while visiting Alaska.

Alaska State Troopers said the bodies of the pilot and Vierra were recovered by rescue volunteers Tuesday evening from a steep and mountainous area.

The accident is still under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

“We have no regrets, we have no bitterness, we have no blame,” Liane Vierra said. “It is unfortunate that it happened but I know that’s where she wanted to be.”

This loss is also being felt within her Hawaiian Airlines ohana. The airline’s vice president of in-flight operations Robin Sparling sent KHON2 News a statement:

“McKenna joined our Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant ‘ohana in 2016 and she marked her 4th anniversary with us last November. Whether it was in the cockpit or in the cabin, McKenna’s heart was in the sky. We will remember her beautiful smile, amazing personality and steadfast faith. Our hearts are with Mckenna’s family during this sad and difficult time.”

Hawaiian Airlines statement on passing of McKenna Vierra

Liane Vierra said her daughter lived her life with no fear and is inspired to do the same. She saw Vierra’s bravery during a short flight within the islands.

“In Molokai, we experienced some turbulence but I watched her master the turbulence with no fear,” Liane Vierra said. “That just inspired me, I was just watching her and I was like wow this girl is fierce.”

Vierra said Hawaiian Airlines will help bring her daughter back home. Loved ones have created a GoFundMe account to support the family with expenses.