Gery Anthony Franklin, 62, had a passion for flying airplanes simply for the sheer fun of it. He would invite his friends along to soar over the South Plains and revel at God’s creation, said his wife, Carrie.
“He was doing what he loved to do. He loved flying planes,” she said Friday.
Franklin and three other Lubbock residents were in his single-engine Cessna 182 airplane Thursday when it crashed near the Levelland Municipal Airport, south of Levelland on U.S. 385.
The crash happened shortly before 9:30 p.m. about 15 miles east of the airport, said Keith Holloway, a National Transportation Safety Board public affairs officer.
Franklin and Daniel Rene Lopez, 27, were pronounced dead at the scene, said Cpl. John Gonzalez of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Christine Lopez, 27, was upgraded to serious condition as of Friday afternoon at Covenant Medical Center in Lubbock. She suffered critical injuries in the crash, including multiple broken bones, and was airlifted to the hospital.
Cody Adam Brockman, 29, was also transported to Covenant for his injuries and was listed in fair condition Friday.
Attempts to contact the Lopez and Brockman families were unsuccessful.
Franklin was the registered owner of the plane, according to the Federal Aviation Administration website.
Franklin was a retired oilfield production foreman and was an avid volunteer at his church, his wife said. He had been flying airplanes for the last five years.
The tragedy also hit close to home with some Lubbock Independent School District faculty, staff and students. Brockman is a PE teacher at Centennial Elementary. The other three victims also had relatives working at Centennial school and Coronado High School, said Nancy Sharp, LISD spokeswoman, in an e-mail.
Counselors were available at those campuses Friday.
Kelly Smiley, principal of Centennial Elementary, said Brockman has been a great leader and teacher during his four years at the school. She believes Brockman will make a full recovery and be there for his wife, who is expecting a baby.
Holloway said an NTSB investigator arrived at the crash site Friday to examine the wreckage and obtain air traffic control information, eyewitness accounts and weather information, but a cause will not be determined immediately.
A preliminary report, which does not include a cause, should be available sometime next week on the NTSB website, he said.
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