‘Our grief is indescribable’: Tragic stories emerge of the seven Americans killed in fiery 747 crash – including one who was married just two weeks ago
The cargo plane crew members who perished in a fiery crash in Afghanistan included a man who married just two weeks ago and another who was engaged, it has been revealed.
Seven American crew members of the private cargo jet were killed on Monday when the Dubai-bound plane crashed shortly after take-off from Bagram air base near the Afghan capital of Kabul.
Heart-stopping dashcam footage of the crash hit the web hours later, showing the Boeing 747-400 climbing steadily before plummeting back to the ground in a massive explosion.
Just married: Brad Hasler, a pilot who was killed in the tragic plane crash in Afghanistan, is pictured with his new wife Robin in this wedding photo from two weeks ago
Yesterday, the names of the tragic crewmembers – all working for National Airlines – were released. Six of them were from Michigan.
They included pilot Brad Hasler of Trenton, Michigan, who married his longtime girlfriend just two weeks ago. The couple had a 2-year-old child and another on the way, his brother said.
Tragic: Plane crash victim Michael Sheets was engaged to be married
The brother, Bill Hasler, told WDIV-TV: ‘If I could trade places with him so that he could be with his family, I would in a heartbeat.’
In a statement to NBC News, Bill Hasler added: ‘Brad was a wonderful father to two young children, a beloved husband to a wife who is expecting another child, a loving son, and the most loyal and supportive brother I could have ever asked for.
‘His influence in the lives of all of us who loved him is immeasurable, and our grief is indescribable.’
The station reported that fellow crewmember Michael Sheets, of Ypsilanti, was engaged, and was to get married later this year.
In a statement to WDIV, Mr Sheets’ family said: ‘While there were inherent risks involved in his position, Michael assumed these risks to provide for his family.
‘Michael was a loving and devoted son and brother.’
The other Michigan men on board were pilot Jeremy Lipka of Brooklyn; first officer Jamie Brokaw of Monroe and Rinku Summan of Canton and maintenance crewman Gary Stockdale of Romulus.
Crewman Timothy Garrett was from Louisville, Kentucky.
It was revealed last night that Stockdale had predicted he would die in ball of flames, and believed that flying was a huge risk, his older brother said.
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Dashcam: The plane appears to be taking off normally at the beginning of the clip, gaining altitude shortly after takeoff from Bagram air base
Something’s wrong: The plane, described as a cargo flight, then starts to twist and quickly
Violent crash: The cause of the 747 crash is still under investigation
Glenn Stockdale, 55, said: ‘He always said it was dangerous,’ NBC reported.
‘He would always say, “You either will die in a car crash or a ball of flame in a plane”.’
A horrifying dashcam video captured the Boeing 747-400 appearing to take off normally as it gained altitude.
But suddenly, the plane appears to stall, twisting and dropping rapidly before crashing to the ground in a fireball.
In a statement, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the crash, but NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said there were no reports of insurgent activity in or around the base, which is one of the largest in the country and located about 25 miles north of Kabul.
Crash: The Taliban claimed that it shot down the aircraft, a claim NATO denies
Fireball: The plane exploded as it crashed back to earth, sending flames shooting into the
Casualties: All seven crewmembers aboard the cargo plane were killed in the crash
Explosion: The terrifying crash sent flames shooting into the sky
National Airlines president, Glen Joerger, said in a statement: ‘Safety is always our top priority at National Airlines. This is a devastating loss for our family and we’ll work diligently with authorities to find the cause.
‘Most importantly, our thoughts and prayers are with our crewmembers and their families.’
The Afghanistan Ministry of Transportation and Commercial Aviation is leading the investigation. The NTSB has also sent officials to assist in the probe.
The nation is mourning the loss of the seven brave servicemen.
One of Brokaw’s friends described him as a skilled navigator with significant flight experience.
‘He was a very good person and very smart person,’ Chris Connerton told The Associated Press Tuesday by telephone from Rochester, Minnesota.
Tragedy: A giant plume of smoke can be seen just moments after the crash
Mourned: First Officer Jaime Brokaw, left, and load master Michael Sheets, both of Michigan, are two of the seven Americans killed when the private cargo plane went down in Afghanistan
Navigator: Rinku Summan was one of the two first officers on the flight. According to reports, the plane went down after the cargo load shifted on takeoff
Connerton credited Brokaw with helping get him through flight school, as well as a harrowing flight two years ago from Toledo, Ohio, to an international flight expo in Lakeland, Florida, Connerton said ice had built up on the plane to the point that he could no longer get it to climb.
‘If it wasn’t for Jamie’s navigation and know-how … we wouldn’t have made it,’ Connerton said. ‘I don’t know that I would have had the capacity to handle the situation on my own.’
Brokaw leaves behind a wife and young step-daughter.
Gary Stockdale, 51, from Romulus, Michigan, was a member of the maintenance crew
Jeremy Lipka’s stepfather Dave Buttman said that his stepson had toured Iraq and Afghanistan and escaped near-fatal incidents, but continued to serve his country.
He said: ‘Basically, you’re taking your chances flying in there and he was just happy to be one of the pilots to do it,’ NBC reported.
Hasler was a high school hockey star who lived in a tidy neighborhood in the suburbs outside Detroit.
The district governor for Bagram, Abdul Shukor, described the plane as having reached an altitude of about 1,312 feet before suddenly ‘falling out of the sky,’ he said, citing witness accounts.
Coalition forces said that the official cause of the crash is under investigation, but it is believed that the plane’s cargo – which included mostly military vehicles – moved as the flight took off, causing it to spin out of control.
The Aviation Herald reported that the crew of the plane reported that a load shift caused the plane to stall moments before the crash.
Bad weather is also being weighed as a possible cause.
The crash came two days after four U.S. service members were killed when their surveillance aircraft in southern Afghanistan crashed due to adverse weather conditions.