O'HARE AIRPORT — A Chicago film crew and students from Englewood who traveled to Africa are back in the city after a horrific bus crash that left a member of the group dead.
The group arrived at O'Hare Airport about 2 p.m. Wednesday on a flight that took them through Doha, Qatar. They returned just two days after surviving a bus crash in Uganda, where they attended an international film festival and filmed a documentary.
Suburban Chicago filmmaker David Steiner was killed.
The two students on the trip, 13-year-olds Hayah Rasul and Terrance Dantzler, were warmly greeted at the airport. The eighth-graders at Betty Shabazz-Barbara A. Sizemore Elementary are the subject of a documentary by Steiner that saved the school after Chicago Public Schools sought to close it last year.
Terrance, who was injured in the crash, was taken from the plane by wheelchair and stretcher to an awaiting ambulance that took him for a checkup with his doctor.
“I’m feeling good. I’m home,” he said as he hugged family members, laughing and smiling. He said he was just “thankful for my life and for family.”
Both he and Hayah said Steiner had been a role model for them.
“David was something real," Terrance said. "If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have been able to do certain stuff. He opened a lot of doors for me.”
Hayah, who wasn't injured, said Steiner would not want people to be in mourning.
“This isn’t something anyone should be sad about," she said. “When you remember David, you should be happy. He wouldn’t want everyone to be sad.”
Terrance Dantzler is greeted at O'Hare Wednesday. [DNAinfo/Andrea Watson]
At the airport, family, friends and those who had gone on the trip sported shirts with a picture of Steiner and the inscription "Welcome Back — Rest in Peace David."
Hayah's mom, Alesia Patterson, said that she was eager to see her daughter after speaking to her by phone after the crash Monday.
"I'm very anxious to see her," Patterson said. "This is emotional for everyone."
The school is mourning the death of Steiner, who owned Steiner Properties in West Town and Third Eye Mediation.
In a statement, Betty Shabazz International Charter Schools said it was “extremely saddened” to learn of the death of one of its “committed school volunteers.” It called the death tragic.
“Our sincerest prayers and condolences are extended to the entire Steiner family, particularly his wife Diane and his father Joe. David was a rare cinematographer who loved our school and sought the goodness in all humanity. We will miss him," the charter school said.
In a few days, classmates of the students who arrived safely will participate in a celebration, a spokeswoman for the school said.
Film crew member Sarah Giroux, of Chicago, said in a Facebook post that the group had been on a five-hour trip to a small village called Mbali.
"I've witnessed the wrath of death tonight," she wrote.
Immediately after the crash, as they were "laying incapacitated," she posted, "some of our bags were raided, all of our money was stolen."
"We are all sad, traumatized, shocked, but right now, are staying strong and suppressing any strong emotion from overtaking our judgment," she told DNAinfo.
A GoFundMe raised thousands of dollars, enabling the group to get passports and plane tickets to return home.
She said any money left over would help a South Sudanese family with five children who sustained severe injuries on the bus.
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