Local, Movie News

Letter from David Peterka, Member of the St. Louis Filmmaker Group Who Survived Nairobi Plane Crash

Posted: August 2, 2009 at 11:54 am   /   by   /   comments (1)

This is a letter from David Peterka, one of four members of “Give a Damn?,” who is filming a documentary in Africa to raise awareness on poverty in the region. If you have not heard, two of the St. Louis filmmakers were involved in a plane crash yesterday, in which both were injured but miraculously will make a full recovery. For more information on the crash, click here.

david-peterka-give-a-damn-africa-documentaryTo everyone supporting “Give a Damn?”

As some of you may know there was a drastic accident that took place yesterday involving Dan Parris and Rob Lehr. They were taking aerial photographs of Kibera, one of the worlds largest slums, when the plane stalled. The pilot manages to glide the craft just outside of the slum’s perimeter most likely saving at the least hundreds of lives. The only casualty other than inside of the plane was a 11 year old girl who saw the whole thing and is struggling through post traumatic stress.

First the wing of the plane struck a telephone pole redirecting it from the street they were trying to land on. This caused it to smash into the side of a three story apartment building. Then throughout the 30 meter fall to the ground the plane flipped upside down and instantly caught on fire. The doors happen to be off since they were both filming and if they had been on Rob says they would not have made it out alive. Rob was able to escape the plane and though bleeding servery from the head, gained his composure. When he realized Dan was unconscious and still in the plane he went back for him. Dan regained conciseness, saw flames right beside his head and with all that he had left, crawled out of the plane. When Rob made sure he was safely out he did what only a hero would do, went back for one of the two pilots. The closer of the two was still strapped in and hanging upside down. He was also unconscious and at that moment Rob saw and image that will be with him for the rest of his life. There was blood streaming down his head and one side of his face had caught fire. Reaching across the man’s body, Rob managed to undo his seat belt just as his arm and pant leg caught fire. At that moment the 1st local man on the seen grabbed both him and Dan and helped them into a car headed for the hospital. As it sped on the wrong side of the road with it’s horn blaring the duration of the ride for Dan and Rob the ride to the hospital was nearly as thrilling as the crash.

Other soon came and also managed to get Ryan, the pilot that Rob rescued, into a car. I can tell you this with confidence, if Rob had not done what he did Ryan and most likely Dan would not be alive today. Right now Ryan is in critical condition with 3rd degree burns. He was also in surgery all day today having the broken bones in his hip and leg pieced back together. There was also another pilot in the plane as well named Frank. Sadly he died of head trauma on impact, leaving Dan and Rob literally feet away from death. Please pray for his wife and I believe 3 children.

Tim and I were on our way to a soccer match when we found out and rushed to the hospital. Tim was suppose to be on the plane, but for reasons and feelings that we cannot fully explain was not. Rob and Dan will be returning to America as soon as possible. As far as “Give a Damn?” the documentary, Tim and I have decided to continue on after Dan and Rob have safely left. Obviously this part of the documentary will be drastically different without the two most important people, but none the less “Give a Damn?” will prevail and the story will be told. We believe our movement to help make fighting poverty a priority in young peoples lives will now even be more effective due to this event. (We try to find the good in everything :]) People who just need something to live for will be connected with those who just need something to live. These two things are the ultimate goal of “Give a Damn?”

Just so you know, Rob has minor scrapes and burns on his legs and arms as well as a number of stitches in his head. Dan broke his color bone,has pain in his abdomen along with minor scrapes and burns. They are both doing incredibly well despite the circumstances and are expected to fully recover. For me this is nothing short of a miraculous work of God.

Thank you all again for your prayers and support. We need them now more than ever. Also again if you would like to follow Tim and I on the rest of our 4 month journey through Africa step by step then join our twitter if you haven’t yet. Also tell your friends about what has happened and invite them to join the “Give a Damn?” Facebook cause to receive further blogs!

P.S. sorry for the grammatical errors I’m kinda in a hurry and have to get back to the hospital.

Thank you for being by our side through this,
David Peterka of the “Give a Damn?” team

We wish Dan and Rob a speedy recovery, and hope that they can get back to the states soon. The families of the pilot and flight engineer on-board the plane are in our prayers.