Friday, August 17, 2012

Obituary: Craig Combs (and) Family remembers soaring spirit of late pilot - St. Joseph, Missouri

Submitted photo 
 Craig Combs gives his son, Justin Combs, his first radio-controlled airplane as a gift at the age of 10. Mr. Combs died in an ultralight aircraft crash in rural Buchanan County on Monday. 

A St. Joseph man’s love for flight ended tragically earlier this week as his family moves forward, honoring his passions.

“He was our risk-taker,” said Craig Combs’ daughter, Angie Losson, as she remembered her 55-year-old father who died in an ultralight aircraft crash Monday. “He was never afraid to try things he really wanted to do. No one could stop him.”

A St. Joseph native, Mr. Combs was piloting the aircraft near a private airstrip off Route JJ, about four miles south of the city limits, when a suspected gust of wind caused the landing gear to clip the top of a tree, which sent him to the ground. Mr. Combs was taken to Heartland Regional Medical Center in extremely critical condition and later died as a result of his injuries.

Known for his kind spirit, generosity and his mechanical know-how, Mr. Combs raised three daughters and one son and instilled his airplane enthusiasm into his family. His son, Justin, said he and his father shared a deep connection and friendship for radio-controlled planes.

“Dad was real particular about the way things had to be done, so when I started, it was basically just me watching him,” Justin said, adding that his father gave him his first radio-controlled plane around the age of 10. “It was good to have something that we could share a bond to. We were best friends.”

Mr. Combs, who was president of the St. Joseph Barnstormers’ Radio-Controlled Flying Club, only recently began to fly ultralight aircraft.

“The ultralight he was in when he (crashed) used to belong to me, until I sold it to him,” said Alan Beers, Mr. Combs’ friend of 23 years and fellow member of the St. Joseph Barnstormers. “He was our guy who would do anything we needed to be done. Fly anything, fix anything, or put anything together, just because he loved it all.”

Another daughter, Amy Combs, said her father would never have flown had he not inspected the plane before takeoff. He always wanted to be prepared for any situation, she said.

“He wouldn’t even let me go to school in Columbia without knowing how to change my car’s tire,” Ms. Combs joked. “He always wanted to make sure we were going to be taken care of, being safe. He was that way about everything in his life.”

Mr. Combs’ interests and generosity stretched outside the airfields.

“One of his neighbors lost their job and they weren’t going to have Christmas, so he left anonymous gift cards on their porch,” Ms. Losson said. “Or sometimes his friends wouldn’t have a washer or dryer, so he would go over and buy all the parts, just to fix it for them. He was just a good man.”

All four children agreed their father will be deeply missed.

“He died doing what he loved,” Ms. Losson said. “Although none of us were prepared for this, this is the way he would have wanted it to be — by him flying in the air.”

The family and members of the flying club plan to sponsor a scholarship fundraiser for aviation mechanics in honor of the late pilot. The event will be held Aug. 25 at the Field of Dreams, an aviation field about three miles east of St. Joseph on Missouri Highway 6 (Frederick Boulevard). Suggested donations are $1, and all funds will benefit the memorial fund.

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 Craig A. Combs

Craig A. Combs, 55, St. Joseph, passed away Monday, August 13, 2012, at Heartland Regional Medical Center, due to injuries sustained in an ultralight aircraft accident.

 Craig was born on March 18, 1957, in St. Joseph, to Charles L. “Chuck” and Carole Ann (Buis) Combs.

He was a 1975 graduate of Central High School, President of St. Joe Barnstormers R\C Flying Club, and member of Experimental Aircraft Association.

Craig was most recently employed at Heartland Regional Medical Center in facility maintenance and worked part-time for Tron’s Goshen Auto Repair.

Through the years, Craig has been an auto mechanics instructor at Hillyard Technical School, an ambulance mechanic, Emergency Medical Technician and mechanic at McCarty Motors, Savannah, Mo.

Craig was preceded in death by his parents.

Craig is survived by his children, Amy Combs (Galen Cloud), Angie Losson (Brett), Justin Combs (Angela) and Andrea Keith (Aaron); two brothers, Curt and Chad Combs; sister, Cara Bergman; five grandchildren, Camden, Olivia, Drake, Nathan and Zoey and fiancé, Frances White.

Services: 2 p.m. Saturday, at Heaton-Bowman-Smith & Sidenfaden Chapel.

Interment: Memorial Park Cemetery.

Visitation will begin after 9 a.m. Friday, at the Chapel, where the family will receive friends 6 to 8 p.m. Friday evening.

Craig had a lifelong love for aviation, and recently achieved his dream of being a pilot.

Because of this love for flying, memorial contributions are suggested to the funeral home for creation of the Craig A. Combs Scholarship for aviation mechanics.

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  Regis#: UNREG        Make/Model: ULTR      Description: UNREGISTERED ULTRALIGHT
  Date: 08/14/2012     Time: 0142

  Event Type: Incident   Highest Injury: None     Mid Air: N    Missing: N
  Damage: Unknown

  City: SAINT JOSEPH   State: MO   Country: US


INJURY DATA      Total Fatal:   0
                 # Crew:   1     Fat:   0     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:   1
                 # Pass:   0     Fat:   0     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:    
                 # Grnd:         Fat:   0     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:    

  Activity: Unknown      Phase: Unknown      Operation: OTHER

  FAA FSDO: KANSAS CITY, MO  (CE05)               Entry date: 08/14/2012 

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