The dad-and-daughter team are competing to honour the memory of their loved one.
Just over a year ago, 22-year-old student Jessie Kleist lost her mother and grandparents in a horrific plane crash. It had been a dream of her mum, Michelle, a talented renovator, to compete on Nine’s The Block. Now Jessie is honouring her mum’s memory by taking part with her dad Larry, 51. And she’s determined to do them both proud.
“I think [doing the show] has been helpful, because Mum used to renovate houses, so I feel close to her through this, I guess,” says Jessie, still visibly affected by her loss. “Rather than spending time thinking horrible thoughts, once [Dad and I] started The Block process, I was able to have good memories of her, so I think it’s been good for me.” Jessie is the first to admit that she’s struggled since learning that the plane carrying her mum, grandparents, uncle and cousin crashed in March last year.
The family, who own several rural properties in NSW, had been travelling to Brewarrina, NSW, to inspect a farm they were considering buying. Upon approach back to their home town of Moree, their six-seater, single-engine Piper jet nosedived through trees, killing the plane’s pilot, Phil Jones, Jessie’s grandparents Digby and Robyn Boland, both 77, and her mum Michelle Kleist, 47. Her uncle Guy Boland and his daughter Hannah, then 12, were pulled from the wreckage alive but seriously injured.
Read more: Jessie and Larry: We did each others heads in!
One year on, everyone in their close-knit family remains devastated. “Because of the nature of the accident, there wasn’t really any closure for us,” says Jessie, who has two brothers, Daniel, 25, and Ben, 21. “I still don’t think I have dealt with the shock properly yet. I think it will take a little while, because as time goes by, it’s becoming more real … [because] I don’t hear from my mum and I don’t see her. I’m dealing with all that at the moment.” While some may think taking part in a reality TV series would be the last thing to help Jessie’s complicated grieving process, she insists the opposite is true.
Read more about the new contestans on The Block in this week’s Woman’s Day on sale Monday April 16, 2012.
Related video: The Block 2012: Exclusive First Look at Elimination Week.