Former Patriots player Russ Francis dies in plane crash near Lake Placid

Russ Francis of the San Francisco 49ers warms-up on the sideline during a game against the New Orleans Saints in 1987 (Getty)
Russ Francis of the San Francisco 49ers warms-up on the sideline during a game against the New Orleans Saints in 1987 (Getty)

Former NFL tight end Russ Francis died in a plane crash near Lake Placid on Sunday while flying in a private plane.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it is “investigating the Oct. 1 crash of a Cessna 177RG near Lake Placid, New York.”

The Independent has reached out to Lake Placid and New York State Police.

Francis, 70, had a career that spanned 13 seasons and consisted of playing for the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers.

New York State Police Troop B spokeswoman Brandi Ashley confirmed to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise that officials were investigating a small private plane crash at the airport.

North Elba Town Supervisor Derek Doty told the outlet that the former NFL star’s death was a “terrible tragedy.” He added that he and Francis became fast friends: “His energy was infectious and was so excited to be an integral part of our community. “

The former New England Patriot recently purchased Lake Placid Airways, according to Adirondack Daily Enterprise. Richard McSpadden, senior vice president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s (AOPA) Air Safety Institute, was also onboard and died in the crash.

AOPA confirmed McSpadden’s death in a statement on its website: “We are deeply saddened to report that Richard McSpadden died in an aircraft accident outside Lake Placid, New York, on Sunday afternoon. The Cessna 177 Cardinal in which Richard was in the right seat experienced an emergency after takeoff. The airplane attempted to return to the airport but failed to make the runway. Both occupants lost their lives.”

“Richard was a very accomplished pilot, including serving as commander of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds during his military career, and a trusted colleague, friend, son, husband, and father,” the statement continued. “Richard is survived by his wife, Judy; his son, Grant; and his daughter, Annabel. Our thoughts are with Richard’s family at this time.”

Kate Naiman wrote on Facebook: “I am shattered to share that my son’s father, NFL great Russ Francis, passed away, along with a friend, in a plane crash Sunday afternoon.”

“To Russ, flying was like came naturally and he lived for it. He used to fly his P-51 Mustang to practice and land in the stadium parking lot and really piss off Bill Walsh. There will be some comfort down the road in knowing that he died doing the thing he loved most, but not today. Not today,” she added.