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Former Chambersburg man crashes plane in Indonesia

August 13, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. -- Rescuers on Monday recovered the body of a former Chambersburg man who was flying a small plane that crashed into a jungle-covered mountain in eastern Indonesia over the weekend, according to The Associated Press.

David Clapper, 46, crashed while making an unscheduled run for produce at the request of some villagers he had just dropped off, according to his mother-in-law, Mary Hernley.

Clapper, son of Don and Carol Clapper of Chambersburg, graduated from Shalom Christian Academy in 1980. He and his wife, Beth, were married for 24 years and had five children ages 10 to 18.

The Protestant couple moved to Indonesia in 1997, returned to the United States briefly and looked for another opportunity to go overseas, Hernley said. They found that with the Catholic-run Associated Mission Aviation in Papua, she said.

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Estimates were that Clapper flew a plane between 13,000 and 14,000 times, although his first experience didn't go too well.

"He got so sick, and he threw up all over the plane," Hernley said. Yet, "he's very adventurous and loved challenges."

Marci Baum said her brother-in-law spent seven years in aviation training.

"He had committed his life to this work that he did and ended up giving his life for it. Dave's desire would have been for God to be honored through his life," said Baum, sister of Beth Clapper.

Hernley said her daughter often had dreams about a plane crash, but, since it has happened, the woman from Lancaster County, Pa., now cannot sleep.

"She said she was prepared for this. She knew it could happen anytime, and she just gave him to God," Hernley said.

Baum described her brother-in-law as an energetic man who lived life to the fullest and could always find a way to get things done. Hernley recalled a time when her son-in-law had to tie up a pig that had broken free during takeoff.

During a visit by Beth Clapper's parents, the pilot flew building supplies to a remote village where a school and medical center were being constructed.

"He was cleared to fly into 91 villages. A lot of these villages don't have a school and aren't very big. The only way to get things in there is by air," Hernley said.

She said that Clapper will be buried in Indonesia, and his wife and children will try to get their visas renewed beyond September to give them time for closure.

A memorial service will be held in Lancaster County when Beth Clapper and her children are able to return, Baum said. Because that trip is very expensive, a fund has been set up in the family name at White Oak Church of the Brethren, 1211 North Penryn Road, Manheim, PA 17545, she said.

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