Huntingtown residents, Jonathan Godfrey, the sole survivor of DC’s fatal LifeEvac 2 helicopter crash, and National and AP award-winning journalist and columnist, MJ Brickey, recently launched the international release of their book, Max Impact: A Story of Survival internationally.
“It was a challenge to relive the crash and the years of struggle afterward — and now seeing this in print and knowing people are reading it is surreal,” Jonathan Godfrey said. “I have never once claimed to be perfect, heroic, or special, but I know there is a plan for me far larger than I ever had for myself.”
In the book Max Impact: A Story of Survival, Godfrey recalls his heroic rescue, the tragic loss of his respected colleagues, and the long process of a community in recovery from the events of the LifeEvac 2 crash into the Potomac River on January 10, 2005.
“People often call me a hero for surviving the crash, but I am not a hero for surviving — the only person I saved was myself, and I didn’t do it alone,” Godfrey said. “The heroes were the people who came to my rescue that night.”
Godfrey awoke submerged in 38-degree water, strapped to his seat, at the bottom of the Potomac River after surviving one of US history’s most notable fatal helicopter crashes. The crash resulted in the loss of pilot Joseph Schaffer and paramedic Nicole Kielar, but Godfrey made it his life’s mission to ensure their lives weren’t lost in vain.
“Not a day passes that I do not think of Nikki and Joe,” he said. “They both were heroes for all they accomplished while they were on earth. I admired and looked up to both of them.”
Godfrey said the book is less about a crash and more about Schaffer and Kielar’s lives and learning from their loss.
“Remembering them not because they died but because they lived big, giving selflessly to their community,” Godfrey said.
Brickey said it was an honor to interview rescuers and close friends of Godfrey. She enjoyed learning about the full lives of Schaffer and Kielar.
“I learned through speaking to professionals in the HEMS industry that Nikki was a well-known and respected Virginia paramedic and Joe was a decorated Vietnam pilot,” Brickey said. “Jonathan talks about Nikki and Joe every day. People often hear him say ‘Never Forget’ and ‘Vigilance, my friends,’ he means it. He cannot forget and he wouldn’t if he could.”
TheBayNet.com’s Ryan Morgan wrote the article “Crash survivor continues to save lives” in August of 2016 where Godfrey spoke about the release of the book.
This pulp fiction style narrative weaves true life and personal journal accounts of emotional experiences intertwined with interview account from friends and first responders. The vulnerable account of Godfrey’s physical and emotional recovery — at times exciting and raw, at others quite warm and human — led to his passion for safety and an unexpected career in public speaking.
“The LifeEvac 2 crash and the rescue that surrounded it was unfathomable — his injuries were serious, and rescuers made some very bold moves to save his life,” Brickey said. “In some of the world’s most restricted airspace, a man clung for life to the tail of a helicopter for nearly an hour before he was found and then rescued.”
Like waves, the effects of the crash rippled through Godfrey’s personal and professional life, and out into the lives of his family, rescuers, throughout the close-knit air medical transport community and now the rest of the world.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the interest from readers in Japan and Germany,” she said. “Godfrey speaks publically about his experiences gaining a following in the air medical and transport industry, but he also speaks outside his industry and internationally piquing interests abroad.”
Godfrey climbed back into the helicopter a year after the crash returning to his life-saving flight community. After more than 11 years of hard work, dire hardships, divorce, raw-world survival, and absolute resilience, Godfrey continues saving lives not only from a helicopter but also with his hard-hitting public speaking presentation “Max Impact: A Story of Survival.”
Godfrey continues to work as a flight nurse in the Washington, DC, area. He has received numerous commendations for his work in promoting safety in the industry and his service to the air medical helicopter community. Brickey is now a DC area public relations, communications and media consultant.
The book, Max Impact: A Story of Survival, can be bought at TheMaxImpact.net, Amazon, and other retailers.