Scholarships honor plane crash victim Nate BrahierWritten by Brandi Barhite | Associate Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Nate Brahier’s last hours played out on Facebook when he began posting at 8:30 a.m. March 29. “First flight in the company plane :)” he wrote on his page when he checked into Monroe Custer Airport.
Ed Beczynski, owner of The Blarney Irish Pub and Nate’s friend, clicked “like.”
At 8:31 a.m., Nate posted a picture of the plane his CEO would be flying. He called it “Pretty.”
Friends began to post underneath the photo throughout the day.
Tony Rusch said, “Wow that is nice! They let you sit right seat?” Clemens Szymanowski posted, “Mirage? Nice rig.”
At 10:03 a.m., Nate posted a picture of the control panels and said “to answer tony’s question.”
The banter continued.
At 2:25 p.m., Nate wrote, “it’s a Piper Malibu Mirage.”
At 2:41 p.m., Nate wrote under the plane photo, “Yep. Full glass cockpit as well.”
That would be Nate’s last post.
At 5:21 p.m., Lori Lorentz posted, “I am hoping you are back from the airport and safe!!!! Please let me know!”
At 5:54 p.m., Charlie Mac posted, “nate sean small plane crash at custer airport lil concerned the plan kinda looks like pic u posted today …”
At 6:25 p.m., Stephen Vasquez wrote, “Post something or call us back buddy lots of people are worried.”
At 6:40 p.m., David Volk posted, “Nate we love you man.”
At 6:42 p.m., Sean Peters said, “Please post something bro.”
At 7:08 p.m., Patricia Parajon wrote, “I have been calling you for over an hour, please answer your phone! I am worried!”
At 7:09 p.m., Stephen Vasquez said, “Cead slan.”
At 7:12 p.m., Katie Peters wrote, “Anything.”
At 7:22 p.m., Kris Standering posted, “nothing new yet, Nate we are thinking about you and hope this isn’t so …”
But it was.
Nate had been killed when the single-engine aircraft crashed into Munson Park in Monroe County. Rick Howell, the pilot, was returning to Custer Airport after making a business trip with his employees to Pennsylvania. Howell was also killed, as was Jeremy Tate.
Nate’s high school friend from Fremont Ross, Andrew Behrens, was the first to post the news at 7:29 p.m.
“Very sorry to tell everyone but Nate was in the plane crash today. Info on arrangements will be posted. We’ll miss you Nate.”
With that post, lives changed.
His mother, Pat Moon, lost her only child. His girlfriend, Halsey Heinselman, lost her beloved
boyfriend. His friends lost their
best pal, their drinking buddy and their daredevil.
“He hung out with a lot of different people,” Andrew said. “He had the kind of personality to hang out with athletes to the drama club to the farmers and get along with all of them. He wasn’t any one of them. Nobody would say he was a farmer or an athlete or anything of those labels. Even after high school, he always wanted to blend his friends together.”
True to his range of friends, an eclectic group will raise money for a scholarship in Nate’s honor during a sold-out golf tournament Aug. 29 at the Belmont Country Club. His alma mater Terra Community College started a scholarship in his honor. His family also launched a private scholarship.
“The scholarship is not so much in honor of Nate as it is to give people the same opportunities that he had,” Pat said. “When faced with deciding on a memorial, we wanted to do something to extend his life.”
Nate died on a day marked by yet another opportunity. As a student pilot, he was excited to be in the Piper Malibu Mirage.
Pat wasn’t worried about Nate on March 29. Compared to his usual ways, taking a one-day company business trip was nothing that could hurt her 30-year-old son. Nate was a mechanical design engineer at Conforming Matrix Corporation.
“From a young boy, he was jumping curbs with his bike and ending up with a bloody face,” she said.
His adventurous spirit would evolve from little-kid bikes to motocross to wakeboarding to go-karts. He broke bones, tore skin and ended up dating an ER doctor, which eased his mother’s mind.
Pat hadn’t even thought about anything being wrong until Tony called to ask if she had heard from Nate. She hadn’t, so she sent him a message.
“I texted him and said, ‘Hey what’s up babe?’ He obviously never responded. I still have that text.”
Since Andrew is a pilot, Tony called and asked him to check on Nate’s plane. At first, he tracked the plane and found that it had landed; however, it actually had crashed near the airport. There were no survivors.
A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) spokesman said Aug. 23 it could be 12 to 18 months before a final report on the accident is filed, but a preliminary report stated that “examination of the main wreckage revealed that the landing gear was in the retracted position and the flaps were in the retracted position.”
The report also stated: “A witness reported that the airplane was unusually low and still flying at a high rate of speed with its landing gear retracted when it flew over Stewart Road. The airplane continued at a high rate of speed as it crossed over the trees.”
“I don’t know if we will ever know what happened,” Andrew said.
Love of his life
Halsey was at work as an emergency room doctor at St. Luke’s when she got a call from Tony.
At first she was annoyed. Nate and his friends liked to call her for medical advice. She almost wanted to say to Tony, “Guys, what the heck, I am working. Can’t you wait till I am home?”
Instead he told her to sit down.
She started crying, and her colleagues drove her to Nate’s mom’s house in Fremont.
When she walked in the door, Pat said, “Did I tell him I loved him?” She had.
“Pat has been amazing,” Halsey said. “We call each other and just talk about how we made it through the day, what good things happened. If she talked to a pastor, we go over what they discussed and what helped.
“I see her always being a part of my life. Nate would want that,” she said. “He was always looking out for his mom. He was her only son. I love her dearly. I told her that I would follow her to Florida.”
Florida is significant for Halsey and Pat.
The Saturday before Nate died he and Halsey dined with Pat and announced they would be moving in together. They eventually wanted to relocate to Florida when Halsey finished her residency. This pleased Pat because she also wanted to move to Florida. Nate knew this, and just said, “I know.”
“We were close. He was not a mama’s boy; he knew he couldn’t get away with anything,” Pat said. “We liked talking, going out to dinner, going to The Blarney.”
Pat also liked Halsey.
“We had only been together for four months when he passed,” Halsey said. “Everything just clicked, you just know. We were looking forward to a future together.”
She got him on a snowboard this past winter. He wanted to teach her how to wakeboard this summer. She wanted to teach him to scuba dive. He wanted to take her up in a plane.
On the day of the crash, she got off work at 3 a.m. He called her before she went to bed, but she missed his call.
Later, they exchanged a few texts about apartment hunting. The last text Halsey received was a message about him landing safely in Pennsylvania.
She later sent a text asking when he might be home. She also left him a voicemail expressing her love and calling him her best friend.
She doesn’t believe he ever got that voicemail.
Letters to Nate
Pat said life without Nate isn’t complete. She keeps a journal. She tells him how she feels; she tells him what is going on with her life.
“I wish I could see him walk down the aisle, have children, have all the ailments of getting old. Maybe he is lucky, though. He was spared all that,” she said.
But she doesn’t think he was lucky. She worries he suffered. The NTSB said he died on impact, but she knows there was a fire.
“That is the worst thing for a mother to have to identify a child by dental records. There was nothing left of him. No body.”
She misses everything about him. His voice, his laugh, his phone calls.
“Nate was the kind of guy who always had a charisma about him. He always had a smile,” Pat said.
Of course, he went through some teenage angst, but as he got older, they got closer, Pat said. After Pat went through her second divorce, Nate rallied around her.
Halsey said Nate would want his mom to be happy again.
“He was such a happy person, a positive person, and he would never want to see anyone that he cared for to be sad or not happy,” Halsey said. “Whenever I start to get down, I think that is not what Nate wants us to do. He made the best out of every situation.
“He wouldn’t want us to be moping around. He would want us to get back on the bike.”
To donate to Nate Brahier’s scholarship funds, visit http://www.facebook.com/nate.brahier and message his mother, Pat Moon, through the account.