Science and Mysticism together
Publication: Press Date: 31 Jan 2004 Page: E 5
Headline: These parents inspire
Author: BOWRON Jane
Section: FEATURES Sub Section: ENTERTAINMENT
In a small country where any hero is heralded almost to death, the
overlooked courageous acts of Kiwi couple Kevin and Susan Campbell
on Wednesday night's aeroplane disaster series, Mayday) seems a
If ever there was a real life story waiting for a motion picture
to be made
from it, the gripping account of the 1989 United Airlines Flight
aeroplane disaster is it.
The story of the disaster and the devastating effects of a
door lock that blew a hole in 811, sucking out five rows of seats
all-too-thin air and killing nine passengers made terrifying and
viewing. But the post-crash actions of the parents of Lee Campbell
Among the missing presumed dead was Lee
Campbell, on his way home from Los
Angeles to New Zealand, destination
Auckland. With the greatest of composure
his mother, Susan, recounted the
evening she went to bed looking forward to
seeing her son the next day, but woke
during the night to see Lee standing
by her bedside smiling down at her. The
following day when the Campbells
heard the first reports of the disaster
on the radio Susan Campbell knew her
son was dead.
How the Campbells coped with their grief, resolving tacitly to
find out what
happened to Lee on Flight 811, gave new meaning to the words
Immediately they flew to the scene of the crime to see where Lee
and began their own painstaking investigation. Invited to a
hearing by the National Transportation Safety Board, the Campbells
allowed to take away only press releases.
But after officials left the meeting room, the couple quietly
without saying a word to each other and moving with the speed of
Dodger, they uplifted boxes of papers sitting near the top table.
As they made their swift exit clutching the vital and withheld
officials swept back through an adjacent door, missing the action.
Such gutsy rebellion against a powerful foreign authority
displayed by two
unassuming middleclass Kiwis made one want to cheer. For any
qualms about such a brazen show of anarchy, an aviation lawyer and
of 811 supported their action. He was aboard to get away from the
scenario of accidents and crashes, and explained the conflicting
role of the
NTSB: to both promote the aviation industry and investigate safety.
The NTSB tried to blame ramp attendants and talked with
about the doors suffering from some "sort of abuse".
The Campbells bought a car and criss- crossed America, visiting
involved in the aviation disaster. As Susan Campbell reeled off
the names of
locations visited, including Seattle, Washington, Kentucky, Miami,
and San Francisco, the enormity of their task hit home.
Kevin Campbell, a trained engineer, knocked up a copy of the lock
Boeing 747 planes and demonstrated with shattering logic why the
happened on 811 and would continue to happen to other planes still
This display of DIY-ism by a griefstricken but utterly focused
one again cheer for the Kiwi battler taking on the big boy
corporate and the
air "safety" board.
It would be churlish not to mention the heroic actions of the
managed to fly his badly damaged plane and land it with great
skill on the
tarmac at Honolulu airport. It was the captain's critical
passengers to keep their seat belts on during mild turbulence that
lives of the remaining souls on board.
But it was the Campbells whom air passengers today must thank for
changes made to the critically flawed design of doors and locks,
thousands of lives.
Others would have drowned under a litany of lies, sunk into a
been unable to function, let alone conduct the kind of
would leave experienced sleuths gasping.
They stuck together, and although their dignified heroism has been
the daily inky smudge of yesterday's news, perhaps their inspiring
retold in dramatic and vivid documentary form can go someway
them their dues.