Family: Man killed in plane crash was afraid to fly; saved girlfriend

Plane recovered from lake

NEW ORLEANS – The New Orleans Fire Department says two bodies have been found in the wreckage of a small plane that crashed into Lake Pontchartrain just north of the New Orleans Lakefront Airport Saturday night.

Spokesman Gregory Davis said the Cessna was pulled from the water Tuesday morning by a crane and the aircraft was placed on a barge.  He said the bodies of the pilot and one passenger were in the plane's cabin.The passenger was identified as Reginald Hillard Jr., 25, by family members. The pilot has yet to be identified. 

"They said that he was in the plane. I still didn't believe it," said Reginald Hillard Sr., of Baton Rouge, who was at the lakefront.

Hillard Sr. was told of the official identification minutes after the plane was pulled from the water three days after the crash.  

Relatives said Reginald was afraid of flying, but put aside his fears when his girlfriend, Brianna Davis, surprised him with an aerial tour of the city.

A family member said Reginald was able to unbuckle Davis from her seat and push her out of the aircraft after it hit the water. 

Davis was able to get out of the sinking plane and was rescued by a nearby boater.

"The couple had hired the aircraft to take them on a night time flight around the city of New Orleans," said Lakefront Airport Director Ben Morris.

"They did that, they were coming back in, and again, it appears they hit a little rain shower, a very significant rain shower, a rainstorm. They were making their approach to the airport, and at that point, they disappeared off the radar."

"It's a very sad thing because she did tell us that she and her boyfriend were holding hands when she slipped out of the aircraft," Morris said.

Family members were at the site as the plane was pulled from the water and lifted onto the barge. 

Divers located the plane just 1,000 feet short of the Lakefront Airport runway Sunday.

A crane mounted on a barge was brought in Monday evening to lift the plane out of the water.

 


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