Russ Francis, an NFL-winning tight end with the San Francisco 49ers, and his friend, Richard McSpadden, died in a plane crash moments after taking off from Lake Placid Airport. “Flying was my brother’s lifelong passion,” Francis’s brother, Ed, wrote on Facebook, “and perhaps a fitting way for him to go. Godspeed to you my big brother!!”

Russ Francis and his wife, Judy, shared two children: Annabel and Grant

Russ Francis left behind his wife, Judy, and their two children, Annabel and Grant. “Richard is survived by his wife, Judy; his son, Grant; and his daughter, Annabel. Our thoughts are with Richard’s family at this time,” a statement from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) read

Francis also had a son, Michael, with a lady named Kate Naiman. Kate wrote on Facebook that breaking the news of Francis’s death to Michael was one of the hardest things she’d ever done. “Sending aloha to Russ’s partner Jaxie, to Michael’s sister Rachel and brother Riley, to Russ’s sister, Pixie, and brothers Bill and Uncle Ed Francis. My heart aches for all of you,” Kate added. 

She equated Francis’s love of flying to breathing. Kate continued, “It came naturally and he lived for it. He used to fly his P-51 Mustang to practice and land in the stadium parking lot and really piss off Bill Walsh. There will be some comfort down the road in knowing that he died doing the thing he loved most, but not today. Not today. A Hui Hou, Russell. Me Ke Aloha Pumehana.”