Pine Island native killed in cargo plane crash in Afghanistan

12:00 PM, May 1, 2013   |    comments
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GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - A Pine Island native was killed on Monday when a National Airlines cargo plane crashed at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan.

Airline officials say one of the pilots on the plane traveling from Bagram to Dubai was Jeremy Lipka, who grew up in Pine Island and currently lived in Brooklyn, Mich.

The plane crashed on takeoff, killing all seven crew members on board.

"Safety is always our top priority at National Airlines," said National Airlines President Glen Joerger in a news release. "This is a devastating loss for our family and we'll work diligently with authorities to find the cause."

The plane was transporting vehicles and routine general cargo.

Lipka's wasn't the only life story that ended when the cargo plane went down Monday.

Brad Hasler was married in a small ceremony about two weeks ago.

"He was just a great fun guy," said neighbor and friend Krista Oetjens, 38. "He loved life. There was never a dull moment with him. I just can't believe this happened. I'm in shock."

Six people from Michigan were on the plane, which was carrying vehicles and general cargo from Afghanistan to Dubai, when it crashed just after takeoff about 7 a.m. EDT within the perimeter of Bagram Air Base. Initial reports had put the Michigan casualties at five.

Killed in Monday's crash were pilots Hasler of Trenton and Jeremy Lipka of Brooklyn; First Officers Jamie Brokaw of Monroe and Rinku Summan of Canton; loadmaster Michael Sheets of Ypsilanti, and maintenance crew Gary Stockdale of Romulus. Timothy Garrett of Louisville, Ky., was also killed.

It's not clear what caused the Boeing 747-400, operated by National Air Cargo, to go down. Eric Weiss, a spokesman with the National Transportation Safety Board, said investigators with his agency would be assisting Afghan authorities in the crash investigation.

Oetjens said Hasler, 34, left behind a 2-year-old daughter and an older stepdaughter.

She said he'd lived next door to her in their tidy Southgate neighborhood for about nine years until he moved recently. She said she has been crying since she learned of her friend's death.

Hasler, who liked to boat and fish, was a 1996 graduate of Gabriel Richard Catholic High School in Riverview. Principal Joe Whalen said Hasler was an assistant captain of the school's hockey team and played tennis.

Building model planes and working on real ones comprised Gary Stockdale's passion, filling the family's basement with models in his youth, jumping into aviation as a career at age 16 – and later working at two Detroit area airports.

The 51-year-old Stockdale also knew the dangers of flying, his older brother told The Associated Press Tuesday.

"He always said it was dangerous," said Glenn Stockdale, 55. "He would always say 'you either will die in a car crash or a ball of flame in a plane.'"

Brokaw's relatives declined to comment. Neighbor Jeanette Nickel said Brokaw, whom she described as a good neighbor, was married and had a stepdaughter.

Chris Connerton met Jamie Brokaw at a flight school in Jacksonville, Fla., and described him as one of his closest friends and an experienced navigator who performed well under pressure.

"He was a very good person and very smart person," Connerton told the AP Tuesday by telephone from Rochester, Minn.

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, Fla. 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.

Glen Joerger, president of National Airlines, declined to provide additional information about those killed in the crash. The company is now based in Orlando, but previously operated out of Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti.

"Safety is always our top priority at National Airlines," Joerger said in a release on the company's website. "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 crew members and their families."

The Taliban initially claimed responsibility for downing the plane, but NATO officials dismissed the claim.


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