CHESTERFIELD, MO (KTVI-FOX2now.com) – Celebrating a miracle and mourning a tragedy at the same time: two documentary film-makers from St. Louis lived through a deadly plane crash in Africa Saturday. Sunday, their loved ones were, all at once, grateful, worried, and grieving. Dan Parris, 25, planned to make a documentary on extreme poverty in Africa while he and his crew lived on $1-a-day while traveling there from St. Louis and then shooting the documentary.
Now, even after he and crew member, Rob Lehr, survived the crash while shooting aerial footage in Nairobi, Kenya, the plan is still “on”. “I really don’t know what happened, I just know that we crashed,” Lehr told a reporter in Nairobi. “I really wish I could tell you why.”
“I’m so thankful for this miracle,” said Parris’s father, Doug. “It’s obviously a miracle when you look at the pictures of what happened.”
His son was recovering in a Kenyan hospital with a broken collarbone and undetermined internal injuries Sunday. He relayed a message about the crash and Lehr’s heroics via the internet.
“I fell asleep in the plane but Rob woke me up. I was able to get out before it blew up,” Dan Parris said.
“They want to continue with what they’re doing,” his father said. “They would be upset if they just crashed and came home and nothing came out of this.”
In large part, because of the pilot, a missionary in Africa, who died on impact.
“This guy he was 35 years old, with 4 kids, and a wife,” Doug Parris said, through tears.
“The family e-mails us, hoping his death is not in vain — that they would continue on with the project,” said Ronni Paterka, the mother of two other crew members, David and Tim Paterka.
Her son’s were not on the plane; Tim giving up his seat so Lehr could have the experience of working the camera from the air; which put Lehr in position to save the lives of his friend, Dan, and the co-pilot, too.
“As it turned out it was Rob who was able to get the co-pilot and dan out of their seats, they were strapped upside down,” Ronni Paterka said.
“Rob is heavier than Tim,” added her husband, Dan. “If tim had been in there, they could have switched places, he said they could of all been killed on impact.”
But they lived, so their message will be heard.
“How is it not everyone’s responsibility to ‘give a damn’,” Parris said in promotional video on the group’s website.
The crew lost virtually all of the gear in the crash.
If you’d like to learn more about the project, follow the crew’s progress, or make a donation to help get it going again, go to their web-site: giveadamndoc.com. You can also follow on twitter at http://twitter.com/giveadamndoc and http://www.conversantlife.com/blogs/give+a+damn