Basrah, Iraq: George Weber, 73, of Chesley, Ontario, was killed instantly in a motor accident on Jan. 6, north of Basrah, Iraq, while travelling with a Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) delegation.
Charlie Jackson, 43, of San Antonio TX, USA, and Michele Naar-Obed, 46, of Duluth MN, USA, sustained moderate injuries in the crash. Two others had minor injuries.
Six CPT delegates were travelling in a Chevrolet Suburban as part of a 3-vehicle caravan returning to Baghdad from Basrah. The left rear tire blew out causing the car to fish-tail. The driver tried to stabilize the vehicle but it hit the shoulder of the road, flipped over, and rolled to a stop upside-down beside the road. Weber sustained massive head injuries when he was thrown from the vehicle.
Iraqi passers-by and CPT delegates from the other two cars witnessed the crash and immediately came to help. The delegation then returned to Basrah where the victims were examined and treated at a local hospital. Jackson sustained a broken rib and back strain in the accident and remains in hospital. Naar-Obed sufffered a broken nose and neck strain but was released after treatment. Larry Kehler, 69, of Winnipeg, Manitoba and Pat Basler, 64, of Webster, Wisconsin, were also examined for minor injuries and released.
The vehicles were in excellent condition with skilled drivers, on a lightly travelled six-lane highway, under clear weather conditions. The tires on the vehicles were all replaced just prior to the delegation. The cause of the tire failure is still being investigated.
Delegation members said that while in Iraq, Weber had been most deeply touched by the children he saw suffering from radiation-related cancers and the lack of medications under the UN-administered economic sanctions.
Delegation leader Cliff Kindy, 53, of North Manchester, Indiana said, “On this day, Christians celebrate Epiphany when strangers brought gifts from the East. Our delegation came from the West. George Weber brought the gift of his life.”
Weber was a retired history teacher and trained CPT Reservist. He served in 2001 and 2002 with the CPT team in Hebron, West Bank. There, he took a particular interest in accompanying Palestinian school children to classes under curfew in the occupied city. With his wife, Lena, he had also spent three years teaching school in Nigeria in the 1960s.
When Weber first applied to CPT in 1999, he wrote, “I think that most of the calamities that befall ordinary folk could be alleviated if it were not for the selfishness and greed that motivate the power structures which are in place throughout the world. But there are also many people of good will who wish to treat everyone fairly and with charity. I try to be among this group.”
CPT delegates issued a statement that attested to the driver’s skillful handling of the vehicle in an attempt to avert the crash. The delegation thanked the Iraqi hospital workers, and local officials, who provided quick and compassionate assistance to the group after the accident. The delegation will stay in Basrah overnight and most plan to return to their home countries as scheduled on Jan. 9.
The seventeen person delegation has been in Iraq since Dec. 29, visiting hospitals and other Iraqi civilian institutions to witness first-hand the devastating impact of thirteen years of sanctions, the Gulf War, and the threat of another war on the Iraqi people.
Delegation members include Anne Albright (McPherson, KS), Pat Basler (Webster, WI), Le Anne Clausen (Mason City, IA), Bill and Genie Durland (Cokedale, CO), Thomas Finger (Evanston, IL), Peggy Gish (Athens, OH), Sue Gray (Carbondale, CO), Charlie Jackson (San Antonio, TX), Larry Kehler (Winnipeg, MB), Cliff Kindy (N. Manchester, IN), Robert Leonetti (Trinidad, CO), Jim Loney (Priceville, ON), Mary Ellen McDonagh (Chicago, IL), Anne Montgomery (New York, NY), and Michele Naar-Obed (Duluth, MN).