CHICAGO (CBS) — He documented intense real-life dramas in Chicago and around the world. On Tuesday, friends and family were mourning the death of beloved local filmmaker David Steiner, who was killed in a bus crash while working in eastern Africa.
Students at Barbara Sizemore Academy affectionately called Steiner “Baba David.” He was like a father figure to many of them, and two Sizemore students were with him in Uganda when their bus was struck by a reckless driver on Monday.
Steiner filmed an award-winning documentary “Saving Barbara Sizemore” about the charter school in Englewood after it was targeted for closing by the Chicago Public Schools. Earlier this year, a state board overturned the district’s plan to close Sizemore and two other charter schools at the end of the school year.
While filming the Sizemore documentary, Steiner opened his heart to the kids and their families.
“Once he visited, it was like the beginning of a love affair,” said Carol Lee, co-founder and chair of Betty Shabazz International Charter School, which operates Sizemore.
“Saving Barbara Sizemore” was accepted to four film festivals, including one in Uganda.
“Each time the film was shown, he always wanted to engage the children so that they could experience the world and know that they were active contributors,” Lee said.
Lee said Steiner took two students with him to Uganda, where he was filming a documentary about Sudanese boys. She received a call Monday notifying her the minivan Steiner and the boys were in had been involved in a crash. A car hit the minivan head-on, killing Steiner on impact.
“An extraordinary human being. He loved people. Film, for David, was a vehicle for his passions for social justice,” Lee said.
Steiner’s son also was injured in the crash, as was one of the Sizemore students.
Steiner was planning to fly to Israel with the two Sizemore students so they could celebrate Hanukkah and Kwanzaa together.
“One of the lessons in life is that every day is a gift. Every day is a blessing. Tomorrow is never promised. It’s unfortunate to learn that lesson so young,” Lee said.
The Sizemore students who were with Steiner were heading home on Tuesday.