New documentary focuses on Dave Repsher’s recovery from helicopter crash
FRISCO — A new documentary set to open at the Breck Film Fest will take audiences through the amazing story of local Flight for Life nurse Dave Repsher and how a community of support helped to make the difference in his recovery after a helicopter crash.
On July 3, 2015, a Flight for Life helicopter crashed into the parking lot at St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco just after taking off. The helicopter’s fuel tank ruptured on impact and doused Repsher. A fire lit up the scene moments later, and Repsher suffered full-thickness burns to 90% of his body.
Pilot Patrick Mahany was killed in the crash. Another nurse, Matt Bowe, also was injured.
But the documentary, called “D-Rep: Fight for Life,” isn’t about the tragedy. Instead, filmmakers say it’s about Repsher’s unlikely survival, his journey from victim to advocate and the people who stood by his side to make it possible.
“The guy shouldn’t be here right now,” said Michael Mazzanti, the film’s director and editor. “There was a formula that gave him a negative chance at survival. The further we got into the story, we started realizing how important to his survival were the people around him who rallied and came together.
“It’s hard to imagine what we would do if the balance of our life was scaled for the impossible, if there were a negative chance that we’d ever talk, walk or live again. But what we started to be able to imagine is how the scales would be tipped the right way if there were more people in the world like the medical team, Dawg Nation Hockey, the people of Summit County and most importantly his wife, Amanda.”
Mazzanti is part of an Emmy-winning, in-house creative team with UCHealth that produces short documentary projects about patients in the network’s care. Executive Producer Jeff Kosloski said the group typically shoots films anywhere from two to 15 minutes long that are meant for distribution on social media in hopes the uplifting stories will find someone who needs them.
In that sense, the “D-Rep” documentary represents a different direction for the team. Not only is it the longest they’ve ever shot with a runtime listed at 42 minutes, it’s also the first the team has ever submitted to a festival. The goal is to reach as many viewers as possible.
“(Dave and Amanda) needed a pretty profound reason to agree to do this, as well,” Kosloski said. “We had access to pictures and videos that nobody else had that was really getting deep into what they went through. They also have this belief where they look at the purpose of this film as giving hope and help to other people. Their focus is solely on that.”
The filmmakers said the Repshers shared with them new insights about Dave’s recovery, and allowed them access to close family and friends — from his hockey teammates to the medical workers who helped save his life.
The documentary will premiere from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 20, at the Breck Film Fest’s drive-in experience at Colorado Mountain College. The film also can be viewed online through the Breck Film Fest website. Following the screening, there will be a live virtual Q&A with Repsher for both drive-in and online viewers.
After the premiere Sunday, the film will be available worldwide through Oct. 4.
The filmmakers said it was exciting to be able to premiere the documentary in Summit County, not far from where the crash took place, and be able to provide residents with a new way to look at the tragedy.
“I started out thinking this was a story about never giving up,” Mazzanti said. “And as we started to tell the story, I realized it’s more about never giving up on the people that you love. I think Dave got energy from the people of Summit County, all the people that were rallying around him. And that’s kind of what helped him fight.
“… Obviously, everyone knows the story up here. And I think for people that haven’t followed much about this story, it will provide some closure. A lot of people know about the crash, but they’re not sure how it ended up. Or it’s still tragic in their mind. I think in being able to share this story, people are going to walk out feeling happy for Dave and feeling optimistic. Instead of a tragic story, you’re going to see an incredible story of perseverance and love.”
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