Decades after Aspen plane crash, surviving brothers speak about trauma in new documentary
ASPEN — As boys, Mark and Andy Godfrey survived a horrific 1974 plane crash that killed their parents, brother and sister on their way to an Aspen ski vacation. The pair stayed alive in the wreckage for three days on a snow-covered mountainside outside of Glenwood Springs before an unlikely rescue. In the decades that followed, they rarely discussed the tragedy.
But in a startlingly intimate new documentary, the brothers confront their trauma and tell their stories in the hopes of inspiring others.
“Maybe by me opening up, I can help some other people who have faced despair,” Mark says in the film.
Titled “3 Days 2 Nights,” the documentary is a story of survival and perseverance, but it’s not really about those unthinkable three days and two nights the boys survived in the wilderness among the dead. Instead, it’s an intensely personal portrait of Mark and Andy Godfrey as they attempt to heal the emotional wounds and mend their relationship 40 years later.
Flying for the first time on a small private plane, the family crashed on Williams Peak in Garfield County on the way to Aspen from Houston. Just 8 and 11 years old at the time, Andy and Mark subsisted on peanuts, chips and liquor from the cabin. Pinned by mangled plane seats, Mark lost his legs and Andy lost toes.
The film conjures the terror of the crash with Andy recounting his memory of it, interspersed with recordings of the pilot’s conversation with air-traffic controllers before impact.
“I distinctly remember looking out the left-side plane window and seeing the trees get very close and Mom saying, ‘We’re going to crash,’ and I remember hitting the snow, remember sliding on the snow, and then blacking out,” Andy recalls.
Before she died, his mother told Andy to stay close to the plane, conserve food and take care of Mark.
Four decades later, Mark is haunted by nightmares of the crash.
“I wake up, I hear my heart thumping and tell myself, ‘OK, it’s just a bad dream,'” he says as the film opens. “I wake up everyday, and it’s still the same thing. The bad dream never went away.”
They were saved, it turns out, by a 9-year-old boy skiing at Sunlight who saw the plane go down across the valley. The boy was obsessed with planes and aviation, so nobody believed his story initially and his father did not alert authorities for two days. In “3 Days 2 Nights” the Godfreys find that boy, Danny Schaefer, and thank him in person for saving them.
The film also follows the Godfreys as they recount their rescue with the helicopter pilot who found them and follows as they return to the crash site on its 39th anniversary and find wreckage still strewn about the woods.
Here in Steamboat, survivors of the Rocky Mountain Airways Flight 217 crash commemorated the 40th anniversary by visiting the crash site Sept. 21 on Buffalo Pass. The plane crashed Dec. 5, 1978, during a snowstorm. Of the 22 people on board, including the pilot and co-pilot, one passenger died in the crash and the pilot died in the hospital three days later.
Film director John Breen, who was a friend of the Godfrey family, said he expects to spend about another month in post-production edits on “3 Days 2 Nights” before trying to find a distributor who can bring the film to a wide audience.
“It was definitely a labor of love — probably more labor than I expected,” Breen said of the five-year-long filmmaking process. “When I got into it, I wanted to try my best to have the audience know these guys and their story the way that I do, to have people walk out of the film and say, ‘These guys inspired me.'”
Read the full story at AspenTimes.com.
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