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Wade Berzas, the sole survivor of the horrific plane crash that occurred 48 seconds after departing the Lafayette airport on December 28, 2019, en route to the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, joins Discover Lafayette to discuss how the incident changed his life forever. He now lives his life “48 seconds at a time.”
Wade, still a young man of 39, is happily married with six children from his and his wife’s prior marriages, with two little ones from their union. He recounts how the day of the crash was just another normal day. “My mom was coming over the next day and we had brisket marinating…I had spent the prior day setting my goals for the upcoming year. I was going on a flight with my best friends to do something we had always talked about, an opportunity to see LSU play a road game. Friends were waiting for us there. Everyone was giving me a hard time because I forgot the playing cards.”
“The whole flight lasted 48 seconds. Life flipped on top of its head. I was completely alone, strapped into my seat, burned all over my body, trying to figure out how I would get out. You quickly separate what’s important from what’s not. I called my wife from the field so I could get to her first so she didn’t learn from social media what had happened. I wanted her to hear my voice so I could tell her, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll be fine.”
A lot of people have put “their human minds” to work trying to figure out how Wade survived. Wade believes it is impossible to understand from a human level. ” God just had a different plan for me that day. For those who believe, God worked six miracles: I’m still here and he kept me here for the purpose of doing more work. Five people got to see their Maker that day.”
Wade was always the guy who read the safety briefings when he worked offshore. He remembers getting out of his seatbelt which kept him in place as he hung upside down. He was able to exit the wreckage and two heroic bystanders helped him as he walked away and then collapsed in the field. Over 75% of his body was burned. He didn’t want his wife to learn of the accident from social media, so he called her before he got into the ambulance so that she could hear his voice and he could tell her, “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”
The odds were against Wade, yet he described the peace that washed over him as he realized he was going to be fine. Even with the greater chance he would not make it than survive, he never wanted people to give up on him. Wade was expected to be in the hospital for at least three months. He was put into a medical coma to help his body rest as it fought against invasive germs and loss of fluids, all due to the loss of his skin, the body’s biggest organ.
Joey Barrios, MD, Burn Surgeon at Our Lady of Lourdes, was Wade’s doctor; to date, Wade has had 26 surgeries, initially at the rate of twice a week, all of which have been 100% successful. Typically, skin grafting surgeries have a great probability of needing to be redone. He left the hospital after 52 days, far ahead of schedule. With hundreds of thousands of people praying for Wade’s successful recovery, it is now easy to understand the power of prayer.
Wade realized that he had to surrender the outcome of his accident to God. “You don’t have to go through a plane crash to find yourself in situations where you feel you can’t get through it. When you embrace the suffering, with grace and commitment to get to the other side, you can accomplish things you never imagined possible.” He made that commitment one minute at a time, one day at a time.
A positive mindset was critical in Wade’s recovery, as it is for all of us going through trying times. He stayed positive as much as possible, allowed no negativity in his hospital room, and offered up his outcome to God. He never wanted to be called a victim; he was and is a survivor. He believes that we limit God in our human minds. “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle if you allow Him to work through you. God can do amazing things with you and through you. Surrender to God let Him do the work.”
“Eight years ago, I wasn’t mentally, physically, or spiritually able to surrender to God. At that point, I wanted to be Superman. I went through tough, serious times with my family. I even had a dream board with Superman on it. It was so ironic when the nurses walked into my hospital room as I lay there a vegetable, wrapped in bandages from head to toe, with no power, where I couldn’t do anything for myself, and they said, ‘Here’s Superman.'”
The place crash happened prior to the COVID shutdown, for which Wade feels grateful. His family could be with him keeping him centered and focused.
The accident has changed every part of Wade’s life, from the way he exercises and sleeps, to his attitude toward life. His dad always taught him that ‘can’t’ is not in the dictionary. He was taught to be a warrior with an attitude.
“I used to always say, I’m gonna. I don’t wait anymore. Now, I live my life 48 seconds at a time. This life is very short. While I’m here, I’m going to live my life to the best of my ability. I’m not flying anymore; I don’t feel the need to travel very far as my priorities have recentered. Spending time with my family takes precedence over business and money. I don’t fear death at all. Getting out of this life and dying are not the worst things that can happen to you. The dying is not what keeps me from wanting to fly, it’s the crashing.”
Wade returned to his employer, Global Data Systems (GD), after his recovery. One year after the accident (December 2020), Wade was listening to a podcast featuring the late Tony Robichaux who was speaking on how he almost gave up coaching to be a sales manager. When Wade was growing up, all he wanted to do was to be a coach and there he was leading a sales team. Robichaux emphasized how God gives you gifts and it’s your job to use those gifts. This message deeply impacted Wade and he felt God was whispering to him to make a change.
He decided to follow the voice within and become true to his core purpose of helping people become their very best selves. He finished important projects at GDS, endeavoring to leave things better than before the accident. He credits GDS’s wherewithal after losing 3/5 of its management team in the crash to the coaching of EOS Worldwide that had successfully turned around the company’s culture and profitability.
Wade Berzas is now a professional trainer and business coach with EOS Worldwide, as well as a speaker, coach, and entrepreneur who is passionate about helping people and leadership teams. “EOS” stands for Entrepreneur Operating System” and it focuses on Vision (everyone on the same page), Traction (focus and discipline), and Healthy (Leadership.)
Wade Berzas started a youth sports organization, Acadiana Bucks Youth Sports, in Church Point LA, that has now grown to include baseball and football, serving over 400 children. His mission is to provide youth with a positive male influence and introduce God into their lives through sports. He was inspired by the late UL Baseball Coach Tony Robichaux and is reading “The Real Game,” which shares Coach Robe’s story of changing from a baseball coach to teaching men about God through baseball.
In his closing, he emphasized how he was blessed because he was given a second chance. He had the opportunity to forgive some people that he hadn’t forgiven and to ask for forgiveness that he might never have had the chance to ask for. He could tell people that he loved them that he didn’t tell the day before. “We need to live our lives everyday with the knowledge that this might be the last chance you have to make this right, to be a blessing for other people.”
We thank Wade Berzas for sharing what must be one of the most private and yet public occurrences one can ever experience in life. We thank God that he survived to share his message of faith and love.
To contact Wade about his services through EOS Worldwide, please visit https://www.eosworldwide.com/wade-berzas