On July 29, 2006 a chartered skydiving plane experienced engine failure and began a fall to earth with eight people on board. The plane crashed, killing 6 of the people on board – one of whom was 22-year old instructor Robert Cook.
According to ABC News, there is an average of five small plane crashes each day, resulting in approximately 500 deaths annually. Obviously the numbers vary from year to year but the over arching theme is that it’s not infrequent a small plane of this kind crashes – it happens every day – nor, sadly, is it infrequent someone dies in a crash. What is infrequent is that a survivor can tell the tale of someone like Robert Cook.
Kimberly Dear was on the plane to do a tandem jump with Robert, and as such was harnessed in with him. She reports that when he realized the plane was going to crash, he harnessed her to him, and held her to his body.
A few days after the crash, her father reported to a local newspaper that:
“He said to her: ‘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 actually hit, they believe, a power pole or a power line and it went into a vertical situation, and she became 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.”
“He took the full force of the impact.”
They had just met that day – she was on vacation from Australia and he was on the planet to instruct others how to skydive. Yet, he made sure she was going to survive the crash. Who knows, maybe he knew there was no way he was going to survive. Maybe he thought this was his best chance of survival. Maybe his training kicked in. Or maybe, just maybe, he did what he believed was the right thing to do: to protect someone else from as much harm as possible. He voluntarily gave his life – by any account I could find – so that someone else could live. In March of 2008, the Australian government awarded him The Star of Courage, an honor for conspicuous bravery in times of peril usually reserved for Australians but is also awarded to foreign nationals acting on behalf of an Australian and is ranked second in the Australian civil bravery decorations in the Australian Honours System.
It took years of rehabilitation, and her body was severely broken, but her spine was not. She learned to walk again and lived her life. She married and started a family because of this man she had met only hours before a fateful plane crash protected her and allowed her to continue living her life.