A close friend of one of the victims killed in a fiery helicopter crash at Palomar Airport said his friend had an immense passion for flying and died doing what he loved.
“He had a great love for helicopters,” said Marty Reed, referring to his late friend, Wayne Lewis. “He’d be the first one to tell you he was doing what he loved.
Lewis, 60, of Cardiff-by-the-Sea, was the passenger killed alongside friend and pilot Bruce Allen Erickson, 65, of Rancho Santa Fe, Wednesday when their helicopter spun out of control and caught fire while landing at McClellan Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, California, at around 4:20 p.m.
As the blades of the chopper continued to rotate, the aircraft spun for more than one minute before its tail broke off and smoke engulfed it.
Both men were confirmed dead at the scene of the fiery crash, their names released Thursday morning.
The wreckage remained in the runway at the airport Thursday as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) continued its investigation into the deadly accident. Pieces of the aircraft were strewn about the runway.
NBC 7 spoke exclusively with Reed about his beloved friend killed in the crash. Tearful, Reed said the incident has left him and his family in a state of utter disbelief and denial.
“We’re numb. We’re in shock,” Reed said, holding back tears. “The world has changed for us.”
Reed said Lewis was like a brother to him and his wife – a man his children referred to as their uncle.
“Wayne was a family member to us. He was one of the people we care most about in the entire world,” Reed told NBC 7. “Wayne affected, in a positive way, the lives of so many people.”
Reed described Lewis as an adventurous, dependable man loved by many.
“He was always there for everyone. He was just a phenomenal person,” he said. “He was fun, positive, upbeat. He was the kind of guy that lit up the room wherever he went.”
Reed said his friend’s sudden death has left a huge hole in his heart, and in the hearts of so others who cared for him.
“He will be truly missed by everyone – just so many people,” Reed cried. “Rest in Peace, my brother.”
NTSB investigators said they will release a preliminary report about the chopper crash within the next 10 days. However, investigators said this is a complex aircraft, so a factual report could take much longer to complete, specifically anywhere from six to nine months.