This Plane Crash Survivor Swore He'd Never Fly Again. Then His Daughter Gave Him a Reason To.

On August 2nd, 1985, 12-year-old Richard Laver was on board Delta Flight 191. As it came in for landing at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, the plane flew into a storm cloud and crashed suddenly, hitting a highway just short of the airport runway.

Laver was thrown from the plane because he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, and he landed in a mud puddle 100 yards from the wreckage. His father, Ian Laver, then 45, had been in the seat next to him. He, along with 136 other passengers and crew members, perished in the crash.

Only 27 people survived, including Richard Laver.

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Image of the Delta Flight 191 plane crash.

As a teenager, Laver tried to follow in his family’s tennis legacy (his dad was a player and the second cousin of tennis great Rod Laver). But his fear of flying got in the way. He turned pro before his 18th birthday and was on his way back from a tournament in Brazil when the plane he was on had to force an emergency landing. Afterwards, Laver quit professional tennis.

“I got off the plane and threw my rackets away,” Laver, now 42, told The Mighty. “I just couldn’t get on planes.”

For years, he couldn’t be near an airplane without suffering panic attacks and an overwhelming fear of death. Even the smell of the airport would bring on post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. He underwent everything from therapy to hypnosis to get over his fear, but nothing worked.

Then, his daughter was born.

Richard Laver with baby Kate the day after her birth.
Richard Laver with baby Kate the day after her birth.

Laver and his wife, Michelle, welcomed Kate into the world in 2006. She had a difficult birth and was born with cerebral palsy. For the first few years of her life, Kate’s mainly liquid diet and an intolerance for dairy made it hard for her to ingest enough nutrients to keep herself healthy. She was in and out of the hospital so frequently that the Laver family faced medical bills as high as $50,000 a year.

Finally, a frustrated Laver developed a meal replacement shake in his own kitchen that helped Kate’s health drastically improve. The family was so moved by Kate’s progress that they decided to go into business selling the beverage. They called the company “Kate Farms.”

Laver had a realization, though.

“One of the first things we knew was that if I was going to be the leader [of this company], I was going to have to fly,” he told The Mighty. And he did.

Laver now flies 40-50 times a year for his family’s business.

“The moment I started flying for Kate, all fear just went away,” he said. “It was sort of supernatural. I just had faith that I was doing the mission I was supposed to do in my life and it would be all right.”

Kate, now age 8.
Kate Laver is now 8 years old.

Kate’s developmental difficulties are more physical than cognitive, and her father says she’s a smart and happy child. Since 2011, when she began drinking her dad’s nutrition shakes, she has not been back to the hospital.

Kate Farms now sells the shake, called “Komplete.” It’s the world’s first dairy-free, gluten-free and soy-free ready-to-drink meal replacement shake, according to Laver. It comes in Cocoa Fudge, Vanilla Bliss or Jav’a Latte, and each one contains organic rice protein, 21 super foods and non-GMO products.

Image of Kate Farms products

Kate Farms products are sold in the Vitamin Shoppe and Sprouts, as well as many other health food and organic stores across the country.

“Our success came down to one thing,” Laver said. “We started this business to save Kate. The milestones that we achieved were due to the fact that we refused to lose. Her health depended on it, so we had to win.”

Richard and Michelle Laver with Kate.
Richard and Michelle Laver with Kate.

Visit the Kate Farms website to learn more or to order Komplete online.

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