We’d like to show the side of the world you don’t normally see on television.
It started out as just another Saturday afternoon for the instructors, pilots and passengers at Quantum Leap Skydiving Centre, located near Sullivan Regional Airport on July 29th 2006.
Eight people boarded a DeHavilland DHC-6 Twin Otter aeroplane: Victoria Delacroix, 22, from London. Melissa Berridge, 38, of Maryland Heights, Rob Walsh, 44, of University City, certified sky-diving instructor who had made more than 5,000 jumps, Scott Cowan, 42, of Sullivan, Scott was co-owner of Quantum Leap Skydiving and was piloting the plane, David Pasternoster, 34, of Claycomo, Mo., Robert Cook, 22, of Laquey, Mo.,a senior civil engineering student at Missouri University of Science and Technology and had completed 1,700 jumps, Kimberly Dear, 21 from Australia and one other person.
However excitement turned to terror as the plane took off. People at the airport heard a pop and saw smoke. The plane crashed into a utility pole and then a tree and landed next to a residential house. Six of the passengers died, two survived. What they didn't know at the time was the heroic gesture of Robert Cook, who gave his life to save Kimberly Dear.
When Robert realised the plane was actually going to crash, he grabbed Kimberley and he calmly talked to her and he told her that the plane was going to crash. He told her what to expect and what to do and kept her calm, focusing her attention on him and what he was saying rather than what was happening around her. Kimberly was going to do a tandem jump with Robert so she had the harness for the tandem jump on as Robert did as well.
Robert actually clipped the harness together and, as the plane was coming down, he put his arms around Kimberly and pulled her close, he rested her head on his shoulders and he put his head against hers to stop it flopping around. Robert said to Kimberly ‘as the plane is about to hit the ground, make sure you’re on top of me so that I’ll take the force of the impact.’
The plane went into a vertical situation, due to hitting the power line which made Kimberly a little bit disoriented, but she felt Robert actually twist his body around until Kim was on top of him and when the plane hit the ground Robert took the full force of the impact.
Kimberley suffered pressured vertebrae, severe muscle tears around her spine, a broken pelvis and collar bone, many cuts and abrasions, concussion and severe bruising, Kimberly survived. Her father, Bill, of Sydenham in Melbourne’s north-west, said the final moments of the life of Robert Cook, had been truly heroic. ‘He’s a hero. There’s no other way I can describe it‘ Mr Dear told Australian television from his daughter’s bedside. ‘It was utterly amazing.’
Kimberly’s sister, Tracey said Mr Cook must have known he was giving his life for Kimberley’s as the plane plunged to earth. ‘There’s nothing … I can’t even put it into words but the only thing I can think of is saying thank you so much,’ she said ‘I can’t believe that in this world when so many people are so jaded that there are people out there like that. Mr Cook met Kimberley, as far as I know, that day. I would do that for her but I can’t believe that a stranger who just met her would knowingly give up his life for her. I just want his family to know we appreciate that from the bottom of our heart.’
After years of lengthy investigations and court appearances, it revealed that a Connecticut aeroplane parts manufacturer Doncasters, used a different alloy in a compressor turbine blade than called for by Pratt and Whitney Canada, the engine’s manufacturer. Gary C. Robb, the attorney for the families said ‘It was all an effort to sacrifice safety for profit.’
The part broke and caused the right engine to blow up. Witnesses reported, smoke and flames coming from the crippled engine just after takeoff and moments before the 39-year-old plane nose-dived. The crippled plane then struck the utility pole and tree.
$48 Million has been awarded by the courts, $28 million punitive damages against the parts manufacturer with the families of the victims receiving $4 million each.
In 2008 Robert Cook was posthumously awarded an Australian Bravery Award, one of Australia’s most prestigious honours.
Kimberly Dear after months of gruelling rehabilitation processes walked again. Her hospital case worker said ‘There were so many fractures, and spinal fractures, but there was no spinal cord injury … it’s been said many times here that it’s amazing that Kimberley walked again after this plane crash.’ Kimberly went on to get married and in 2011 gave birth to her first child.
Of Robert’s character, his father said ‘When everyone else panicked, Robert was calm, he was able to help alleviate Kimberly’s fears. That is Robert to a tee. He cared about other people and, for sure, he gave his life to save someone else’s.’