Squirrel Hill family survives plane crash in Tanzania
January 4, 2017 11:44 PM
Joey Kennedy Photography
The Perelman family, of Squirrel Hill, survived a plane crash in Tanzania on Monday. From left, Danielle, Susie, Gregg, Emma and Sara.
Perelman family photo
Masai children take a look at Danielle Perelman's camera.
Perelman family photo
A post on a social media site shows an array of supplies the Perelman family donated to a Masai village on their trip.
By Maria Sciullo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Members of a Pittsburgh family say they feel “extremely lucky and blessed to be alive” after surviving the crash of a small airplane in Tanzania on Monday.
Walnut Capital Management founder Gregg Perelman, his wife, Susie, and daughters Sara, 23, Danielle, 21 and Emma, 19, were on a sightseeing trip around the Serengeti National Park region.
Their Air Excel flight at the Sasakwa airstrip was attempting to take off on a wet, clay runway. The plane was described as crashing “immediately” after takeoff by the Dar Post of Dar es Salaam.
The women were able to escape the wreckage, which caught fire. Mr. Perelman climbed over the nose and attended to the two unconscious pilots, who were airlifted out. They are in Nairobi, reported at the time to be in critical condition.
“Somehow, he was able to keep his wits around him,” said Todd Reidbord, Walnut Capital president and family friend. “Gregg is not a very big guy, but he was able to drag them away.”
Posts on social media describe the family as sustaining “[bruised] ribs, cuts, contusions,” but they were fit for travel and began their return to Pittsburgh Wednesday.
At the time of the accident, the Perelmans were traveling to their last stop, in Rwanda. Other, earlier visits in the two-week trip included a Masai village, where they delivered two duffel bags of school, medical and dental supplies.
A Dec. 22 post on Ms. Perelman’s Instagram account shows the array of supplies. Another, dated Dec. 28, shows a smiling group of children looking through the lens of Danielle Perelman’s camera.
In a statement, Mr. Reidbord said the Squirrel Hill family “are overwhelmed with the Pittsburgh community’s thoughts and prayers as they journey home.
“Those who know Gregg and Susie understand their deep love for their children and family — something that has been a driver for them as entrepreneurs who want to make Pittsburgh a city their three daughters will one day raise their families in.”
The couple both are business founders with a penchant for philanthropy. Mr. Perelman started Stadtlanders, one of the country’s first mail order pharmacies, catering to at-risk patients. He sold the company and started Shadyside development company Walnut Capital in the early 1990s.
Susie Perelman has a background in event planning. In 2001, she founded Mosaic, a national linens rental company. She also is founder of the event “Event Pros Take Action,” a non-profit that helps victims of natural disasters.
The Air Excel Cessna Caravan II is a twin-propeller plane that can seat up to 12. According to Dar Post, the airstrip is a single runway with a small outbuilding at one end.
Maria Sciullo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG.
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