Former NFL tight end Russ Francis, who played for the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers, was one of two people killed in an airplane crash at the Lake Placid Airport on Sunday, according to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. Francis, 70, had recently purchased the Lake Placid Airways scenic tour business. Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association's Senior Vice President Richard McSpadden was also killed in the crash.
The crash occurred at roughly 4:09 p.m. local time at the end of the runway, which led to Lake Placid emergency services, New York State Police, Saranac Lake Volunteer Rescue Squad and state Department of Environmental Conservation forest rangers to all respond to the accident.
The plane was identified as a Cessna 177 Cardinal, and, according to reports, "experienced an emergency after takeoff." The airplane then attempted to return to the airport but failed to make the runway, according to an Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association statement. It was found sideways and down near the bottom of an embankment at the end of the runway.
The airfield was then deemed a crime scene and closed to the public at around 5 p.m. and gliders that were still in the air following the crash were directed to land elsewhere at the airport.
Francis spent over a decade in the NFL. After a collegiate career at Oregon, Francis was a first-round draft choice of the New England Patriots in 1975. Over his first stint with the club, he was named second-team All-Pro twice and earned three Pro Bowl nods. Francis, who briefly retired following the 1980 season, was traded to the San Francisco 49ers in 1982 and proved to be a key piece for the franchise that would go on to win Super Bowl XIX during the 1984 season. Francis then returned to the Patriots in 1987 and played his remaining three seasons in the league for the franchise. He is a member of the New England Patriots All-1970s team and the New England Patriots' 35th Anniversary Team.
"On behalf of the entire New England Patriots organization, we extend our sincerest sympathies to the family of Russ Francis, who tragically passed away yesterday," Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement released by the team. "Russ was a fan favorite throughout his playing career. He was a dynamic player on the field who had an even bigger personality off it. He knew no boundaries, pushed the limits and lived his life to the fullest. Our thoughts are with Russ's family, friends, teammates and the many Patriots fans who mourn his loss."
Francis finished his career with 393 receptions for 5,262 yards and 40 touchdowns.