Paul Mikeal was planning to celebrate his 20th wedding anniversary and his 43rd birthday next week. His family knew he had a dangerous job, but said he had a passion for flying and service.
Mikeal, a Mooresville father of two and lieutenant colonel in the N.C. Air National Guard, was one of four men killed Sunday evening when his specially outfitted C-130 cargo plane crashed during a mission fighting wildfires in South Dakota.
A family acquaintance at the Charlotte home of Master Sergeant Robert Cannon confirmed he was also killed in the crash. She said his family was gathering and grieving, and no one was available to talk Monday night.
A third victim of the crash was also from the Charlotte area. Joe McCormick of Belmont was among the crew members killed when the plane crashed while battling a wildfire. Belmont Mayor Richard Boyce said that the City Council on Monday night recognized McCormick's sacrifice and offered sympathy and condolences to his family.
McCormick was the father of four children, the youngest only three weeks old, Boyce said.
The family of the fourth National Guardsman who was killed in Mondays crash came forward Tuesday.
Captain Major Select Ryan Scott David, 35, was a member of the crew and died, said his wife, Jenny Ellerbe. "He would like to be listed with the men he left with," she said.
The couple has a 6-month-old son, Rob.
David was based out of Charlotte but lived in Boone, Ellerbe said. He had been in active duty for 10 years and was relatively new to the North Carolina Guard, she said.
Joshua Marlowe, 28, of Shelby, was in a Rapid City, S.D. hospital following the crash, his mother-in-law said. The National Guard members wife was traveling to the hospital to be with him, she said.
Josh is in serious and stable condition, said Martha Ledford. The family appreciates the support and prayers from the community. (His wife) is out there with him. My husband and she left this morning.
Mikeal entered the Air Force as a commissioned officer after graduating from UNC Charlotte in 1991, his mother-in-law, Gracie Partridge, told the Observer. His wife, Mooresville real estate agent Marlo Mikeal, graduated a year after him and also entered the Air Force. The pair soon wed.
I dont think any woman could have asked for better, said Partridge. He was a very attentive husband, very easy to get along with.
Mikeal was a real family man, said Partridge, who loved spending time with his 15-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son. They went to Myrtle Beach annually, said Partridge. They go to Florida from time to time, Disney World ...They went out on the boat a lot fished.
He had recently bought kayaks, and liked paddling across Lake Norman with his son, Partridge said. The two of them had rowed across the lake on Friday, the day before Mikeal left to fight the wildfires in the west.
In an interview with Observer news partner WCNC-TV shortly before leaving Charlotte, Mikeal talked about the dangers of fighting fires from the air.
The biggest challenge in Colorado, I believe, is going to be the terrain, the fact that its high, he said. Getting down into it and being effective, thats going to be our biggest challenge.
But Mikeal said his unit was ready to help, as they prepared to fight wildfires in Colorado and then South Dakota. Weve been prepared since May, we did our annual training in May, we are ready to go and help out as much as we can with the fires as soon as we get there, he said.
Like many members of his unit, Mikeal had been deployed to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, flying C-130 transport planes. Partridge said his family was concerned about his safety.
Its something we all worried about, but he never really said anything about it, she said. He was never the type to complain ... I know he had a passion for flying. Staff writers Elisabeth Arriero and Lindsay Ruebens and researchers Maria David and Marion Paynter contributed