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Francis died in the crash with one other person after their plane "attempted to return to the airport but failed to make the runway," according to a statement
The NFL community is mourning the loss of former tight end Russ Francis.
Francis, who played for the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers, was one of two people who died after their plane crashed at the Lake Placid Airport in New York on Sunday, according to ESPN. He was 70 years old.
The former New England Patriot was traveling in the Cessna 177 Cardinal with Richard McSpadden, the senior vice president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), when the aircraft experienced technical difficulties, according to a statement from the AOPA.
"The airplane attempted to return to the airport but failed to make the runway," the statement read.
It remains unclear whether Francis or McSpadden was flying the plane, ESPN reported. Per the outlet, Francis had recently become the owner of Lake Placid Airways and according to The Boston Globe, the retired athlete was authorized to fly select planes and helicopters.
The New England Patriots issued a statement following Francis' death.
"We are deeply saddened by the sudden and tragic loss of former New England Patriots tight end Russ Francis. Our condolences are extended to Francis’ family and friends," the team said in a statement.
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Retired San Francisco 49er Jesse Sapolu mourned the loss of his former teammate in a post on X, formerly Twitter. "Saddened by the news of the passing of former @49er @Patriots and @PolynesianFBHOF Russ Francis. Rip big bro," Sapolu wrote.
Former NFL player Rich Miano also honored Francis, who was born in Hawaii, on local news station KHON2 on Monday.
"He was Hawaii football," Miano, 61, said of former pro-bowler Francis. "He had that appreciation, that love for Hawaii that, to me, is so special.”
Francis was drafted by the New England Patriots in 1975. He was later traded to the San Francisco 49ers, where he won a Super Bowl, before returning to play for New England at the end of his career.
He was a three-time Pro Bowl selection, earning the honor in 1977, 1978, and 1979.
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