In 2006 a 22-year hero named Robert Cook made the ultimate sacrifice for a young girl he had only met that very same day.The heroic young skydiving instructor, calmly told his student their plane would crash and kept a cool head despite knowing the plane was in free fall and that he would likely die on impact.
With that knowledge he did everything he could so that the girl would survive by acting as her human shield. The instructor and five other people died when their plane went into free fall and nosedived into a tree not long after take-off from an airport near St Louis, in the US state of Missouri. Investigators believe the plane had engine failure.
A witness reported seeing its right engine in flames moments after take-off. The young girl that Robert saved was 21 year-old Australian tourist, Kimberley Dear. Her father, Bill, of Sydenham in Melbourne’s north-west, spoke to the media at the time and explained the final moments of the life of the brave skydiving instructor.
“He’s a hero. There’s no other way I can describe it,” Mr Dear told the Nine Network’s Today show. “It was utterly amazing. “When he 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 and focused her attention on him and what he was saying rather than what was happening around her. “Kim was going to do a tandem jump with Robert so that she had the harness for the tandem jump on as Robert did as well, so Robert actually clipped the harness together and, as the plane was coming down, he put his arms around her and pulled her close.
“As he pulled her close, her head rested on his shoulders. He put his head against hers to stop it flopping around. “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.”
Kimberley suffered pressured vertebrae, severe muscle tears around her spine, a broken pelvis and collar bone, many cuts and abrasions, concussion and severe bruising, her father said.
Her sister, Tracey Dear, speaking in Melbourne, 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.
“He 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..”