Ori Greenberg, son of Malibu residents Victoria and George Greenberg, died Thursday night in a plane crash in Aspen, Colo. Greenberg, 24, was an aspiring filmmaker who grew up in Malibu.
Greenberg’s girlfriend, Eliza-beth Ann Smith, 21, was also killed along with three crew members and 13 other passengers.
The victims were flying from Burbank to Aspen aboard a Gulfstream III, a twin-engine jet, for a holiday when the plane rammed into a hillside while trying to land in a steady snowfall. The pilot was attempting an instrument landing, which in Aspen is probably the most challenging, a private aviation consultant and former commercial pilot told the Los Angeles Times.
Greenberg had gone to Aspen with a group of schoolmates from Chapman University in Orange County. Greenberg, who was Jewish, was close friends with his college roommate, Mierweis Tukhi, a Moslem, who was an assignment editor at KTTV. Tukhi also died in the crash.
Greenberg, who graduated from Chapman in December, recently won the best directing award at the Santa Monica Film Festival for his short film “Havoc,” a story about a homeless woman.
He was recently hired as an assistant to Cindy Vandor, supervising producer and writer of “ifilm@ifc,” which is a new entertainment-style TV show.
“He was a great guy and truly talented and very accomplished, even at his age,” said Vandor.
Greenberg’s student film, made while at Chapman, had also been picked up for Internet distribution by Hypnotic.com, an affiliate of Universal Pictures. Ifilm had produced a documentary about the young filmmaker, titled “The Diary of a Young Filmmaker.” The documentary has been dedicated to his memory, said Vandor.
The documentary airs April 9 at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Pacific Standard time, and at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. Eastern Standard time on the Independent Film Channel.
Greenberg attended Malibu Middle and High School and was among the first graduating class at Malibu High in 1996. He was also part of the search committee that had chosen the high school’s principal, Mike Matthews.
Pat Cairns, principal at Juan Cabrillo Elementary School, taught Greenberg in seventh through ninth grades and 11th grade.
“He was just a fabulous kid who had a vision of where he wanted to go in life,” said Cairns. “He took life seriously, but didn’t take himself seriously. He wasn’t caught up in himself.
“Victoria [Greenberg’s mother] talked yesterday, at the service, about how he reached out to people and didn’t put up barriers,” said Cairns. “He always spoke his mind, but he did it with a good heart.
“I guess, if he hadn’t died, we wouldn’t be saying all this,” she added. “But it’s all true. The lesson is, we need to talk about how wonderful our kids are and celebrate them. We need to stop and hug our children and tell them how much we love them.”
Greenberg and Smith were buried together Monday at Mount Sinai Cemetery. Rabbi Judith HaLevy of the Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue officiated.