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In Memoriam

Group PhotoHelen Gromme BioMark Graham BioChip Houseman BioAbout halfway through the year-long filming schedule for "The Living Edens: Thailand," on the 11th of December, 1998, a Thai Airways jet carrying 146 people crashed into a flooded rubber plantation located a mile off the end of the airport runway in the provincial capital of Surat Thani, Thailand. More than 100 souls perished in the accident, among them three members of our production crew: Mark Graham, Helen Gromme and Chip Houseman. The exact cause of the crash, which happened during a severe tropical storm, has yet to be determined. Perhaps it will never be known.

Their passing has left a deep impression on all of us who were lucky enough to work beside them and to call them friends. The shock of this untimely tragedy will ripple through the close-knit industry of wildlife filmmakers for many years to come. Certainly, this accident had a profound impact on those of us left behind to finish the program. All of us tried very hard to forge a sense of determination out of our grief, and to approach our subsequent filming and editing efforts holding the memory of these remarkable lives as our inspiration.

Mark GrahamMark Graham contributed to the making of this program behind the scenes and on location by helping to design the shooting schedule and to use his many conservation contacts in Thailand to make some of our most difficult work possible. A Singapore-born Englishman, Thailand had been his home since 1968; he is survived by his wife, Chanipa Krabuanrat, and two children, Jamie and Fiona. For most of the last decade, nearly all of his professional attention had been directed towards various conservation issues. He was an impassioned advocate of the preservation of Thailand’s wilderness areas, and he participated in a variety of conservation organizations and government advisory positions. He authored several fascinating books illustrated largely with his own spectacular photography, among them Thailand’s Vanishing Flora and Fauna, The National Parks of Thailand, and Thai Wood. He was especially concerned about the future of the tiger in Southeast Asia and also cared deeply about Khao Yai National Park, where many of our most beautiful scenes were filmed.

Chip and HelenChip and Helen, partners in life as well as work, provided some of the most delightful and intimate footage and sound in this show. Their work is especially important in the gibbon scene that begins the program. Chip had an uncanny ability as a cameraman, not just to get close to an animal, but to “get inside” the animal, to gain its confidence, to make it feel comfortable revealing itself to the camera. Chip, already one of the preeminent camera operators in the field, was considered by many to be someone whose star was still rising. His untimely passing has left all of us in the industry with a sense of loss for the great things he undoubtedly would have accomplished had he had more time. Helen was an accomplished adventurer and world traveler in her own right before she teamed up with Chip. Both of them cared deeply about the natural world, and both carried a sincere sympathy for the people they met in distant places. They made friends everywhere they went.

The contribution made by each of these talented and generous people to the making of this program is immeasurable. Each of us involved in finishing the show hope that every single image, sound and thought expressed by "The Living Edens: Thailand" reflects something of the remarkable spirits of Mark, Helen and Chip. 

Bruce Reitherman and Erika Hill
Producers, Pandion Enterprises, Inc.
11 January 2000

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