|By Leo Cachat|
Steve O'Berg flew his slick-looking red and white Pitts S-2B with the energy and precision needed to hold the crowd's attention. He was 50 years old, a husband, father, grandfather, son and brother. He had 4,000 hours of flight time while serving in the U.S. Army, 400 of which he spent flying missions in Iraq. He also had 7,000 hours flight time in various helicopters and airplanes.
This was the second year in a row I was privileged to watch him fly in Cameron. I never got a chance to talk to him because it seemed like he was always getting ready to fly, which was fine with me because that's what I love to watch. At this year's show, during Saturday's briefing, he stood just one person away from me and the last thing I heard him say made everyone who heard it laugh. Although I didn't know him personally, those who did had nothing but good things to say about him, and I'd have to believe them based on all the pictures I have of him taxiing by me at the show. He always had a big smile and a wave. You could tell he loved what he was doing.
Another photographer and myself were the closest to him when he went down, and it was something I will never forget. When it happened, I just said a prayer and got across the runway and out of the way so the emergency personnel could get to his location. It was something I hope no one ever again has to witness. As I stood in shock with everyone else watching what was playing out, many things were going through my head. I thought of his family first and prayed that God would watch over them and comfort them as they must have been horrified by what had happened. I thought of other pilots who had passed away performing at airshows, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't tear up thinking about how these men and women put their lives on the line for people like me who lose all sense of everything in the world while watching them perform as since I was little. I hope everyone takes time, if they get a chance, to talk to the pilots and thank them for what they do. Although they make it look effortless, the margin for error is very slim.
I guess one of the biggest things that hit me after I got over the shock of the event itself was how Steve O'Berg affected people even after his accident. Generally there is a certain disconnect between performers and photographers at airshows. We as photographers want to get great photographs, but we don't want to be overbearing towards the pilots in doing so. So there is a certain sort of line that separates us. In the briefing after the accident, it was as if that line didn't exist. It wasn't pilots and photographers; it was a group of caring human beings who had a deep concern for a husband, father, grandfather, son and brother, and that day his last flight created a bond between us all. Thank you one last time. Steve. Thank you to the O'berg family for supporting him in what he loved and what we love. You will be missed.