Former Pro Bowl tight Russ Francis was killed in a plane crash in Lake Placid, New York, on Sunday, according to family members. Francis was 70.
Francis and Richard McSpadden, a former commander of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, rolled hard to the left after takeoff from Lake Placid Airport before crashing, according to an NTSB spokesperson. It was not immediately clear whether Francis or McSpadden, 63, was flying the plane.
Francis was taken by the New England Patriots in the first round of the 1975 draft. He made three Pro Bowls for the team.
In 1982, he moved on to the San Francisco 49ers where he won a Super Bowl in the 1984 season. Francis returned to the Patriots in 1987 before concluding his career the following season. In all, he had 393 receptions for 5,262 yards and 40 touchdowns.
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. pic.twitter.com/sgrrPZ5Ui4
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) October 2, 2023
The Patriots released a statement on social media, saying: “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.”
In retirement from football, Francis explored his passion for aviation and recently bought Lake Placid Airways. The Boston Globe reports that FAA records show that he was authorized to fly single- and multiengine planes and helicopters.
“My older brother Russ Francis was just killed in an airplane crash in Lake Placid, New York,” Francis’ brother Ed Francis wrote on Facebook on Sunday. “Flying was my brother’s lifelong passion, and perhaps a fitting way for him to go. God speed to you my big brother!!”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.