Sunday, September 4, 2016

Bellanca 7ECA, N787MW : Fatal accident occurred September 03, 2016 in Moss Hill, Liberty County, Texas

National Transportation Safety Board - Aviation Accident Preliminary Report:


NTSB Identification: CEN16FA346

14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, September 03, 2016 in Moss Hill, TX
Aircraft: BELLANCA 7ECA, registration: N787MW
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On September 3, 2016, about 1900 central daylight time, a Bellanca 7ECA airplane, N787MW, impacted the Trinity River about one-third mile south of Highway 105 near Moss Hill, Texas. The pilot and passenger sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was registered to a private individual and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which was not operated on a flight plan. The local flight originated from the Cleveland Municipal Airport (6R3), Cleveland, Texas, at an undetermined time.

Witnesses reported observing the pilot completing several low altitude maneuvers before descending and impacting the river. Ground-based video footage depicted the airplane flying over the river at low altitude. The airplane pitched up and entered a steep climb. As the airplane reached the top of the climb, it yawed to the left, subsequently entering a near vertical descent and gradual left turn. Shortly before impacting the river, the gradual left turn reversed abruptly into a right, descending turn. The airplane came to rest inverted and partially submerged in the river.

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by,  and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should

Patrick Falterman (right), 26, of Tarkington, was the pilot of a plane that crashed Sept. 3 in Moss Hill. His passenger, Zach Esters, 25, of Lafayette, La., was on board the plane. Both young men were killed. 

Editor’s note: A plane crash on Sept. 3 killed two people — pilot Patrick Falterman, 26, of Tarkington, Texas, and his friend, Zach Esters, 25, of Lafayette, La. The story of their tragic deaths has been widely reported, but Cindy Falterman, the mother of one of the victims, wants people to know how her son lived. Below is her story:

They say it takes a village to raise a child. In Patrick’s case, it took the world.

At 19 he left home and hitchhiked to the West Coast, and from there went south all the way through Mexico and Central America. He crossed the Darién Gap and traveled slowly down the Andes to the tip of South America where he lived in a boxcar for several months and was a Spanish-speaking tour guide in a penguin preserve in Chile.

He held a variety of other jobs, including, but not limited to, teaching English, rolling tortillas, washing dishes, translating, and guiding fishing tours.

After three years, he made his way to the Amazon Basin, and canoed the river and its tributaries for two and a half years. He learned fluent Spanish and Portuguese, slept in tents, hammocks, other homes etc.

Mostly, he met people. They were charmed by his vivacity and sense of humor and welcomed him into their homes and lives. And he never forgot them.

He returned home in March 2015 and began learning to fly because he wanted to become a crop duster. He was a month away from finishing his instrument rating and commercial rating. True to his nature, he didn’t just fly, he flew. He did everything all the way or not at all. He had many friends, and one of his best friends was Zach Esters. Zach and his family have been longtime family friends, our history stretching out to long before either of the boys were born.

The reason I am telling you this story is because many people have wondered, and sometimes the imagination is worse than the truth, and the truth has a way of being misconstrued. I would like to correct the inconsistencies in some of the newscasts I’ve seen.

To be fair, we were not in the right mental state to give interviews, so the media had to go by hearsay. First of all, we did not see the accident. Our kids had several friends over and Patrick had been giving everyone short rides. We were waiting for him at home on our grass strip.

Zach was his last passenger, and they wanted to fly over the Trinity River during the sunset. If any young men can appreciate beauty, it was these two.

Also, I am neither a flight instructor nor a flight attendant. I was a reading interventionist at Tarkington Elementary for many years. Patrick’s younger sister is a flight instructor at Austin Bergstrom International Airport and his dad was an Air Force pilot who now flies for Southwest Airlines. The airplane was a Citabria, not a Cessna, and it was an aerobatic airplane.

Patrick was proficient and had performed these maneuvers often with many different friends. Despite the news, it is the belief of local pilots that he was not performing an aerobatic maneuver that close to the ground. No one knows why this accident occurred, and any speculation now only breeds more rumors and misinformation.

I am overwhelmed by the amount of love and support (and food!) we have received from people both far and near. We were surrounded by friends and family for at least a week, and attendance at both the funeral and the airport memorial flyby was phenomenal. It really touched me to see how many people love us and loved Patrick.

Guests from other parts of the world commented on how warm and welcoming people are here and on how many people said, “Yes, ma’am” and “No, ma’am.” This makes me proud to be from the south and proud of my community. I guess I never realized how many “families” we have — our church family, our old military family, our school family, our airport community family, Southwest Airlines, Patrick’s work family from Pappa’s Seafood, and our extended family who came from all over the United States.

Patrick had another family, the vagabonding community and his fan club from his blog — one which, by the nature of its members, must be joined together digitally. A fellow hitchhiker and artist from Peru attended and designed a tribute to Patrick on his webcomic, Things in Squares.

Social media was inundated with funny stories, sincere wishes, and loving comments, all in several different languages. His blog,, had a substantial following, and people from all walks of life were influenced in some way by my son. Patrick did indeed have a lust for adventure and life, and it is now apparent that he needed the world as much as the world needed him.

A scholarship fund called The Patrick Falterman Memorial Scholarship is being set up in lieu of flowers. His high school classmates also designed T-shirts that they will be selling until Sept 25 and the funds from that will go toward the scholarship. Many people have asked for a copy of my husband’s eulogy, but since it was spoken from the heart and not on paper, we will have to write it down. The eulogy will serve as the last entry on Patrick’s blog and will be posted soon on his website.


Patrick Joseph Falterman II 

Patrick Joseph Falterman II, age 26 of Cleveland, Texas, passed away Saturday, September 3, 2016. He was born March 16, 1990 at Minot AFB in North Dakota to parents Pat and Cindy Falterman. He is preceded in death by his paternal grandparents, Casey and Edna Falterman and his Godfather/Paran Joey LaLonde.

Patrick lived life to the fullest. As a young boy, he loved reptiles and nature, and he left home at 19 to explore the world. He spent almost 6 years hitchhiking through Central and South America and canoeing the Amazon Basin. He touched many lives in many different countries, and became fluent in both Spanish and Portuguese. During the last year and a half, he came back home to pursue a career in aviation. His training as a commercial was due to be completed next month after which he planned to pursue his passion for adventure and aviation as a bush pilot or aerial applicator. He was an inspiration to many, not only because of his daring spirit and spontaneous nature, but also his personality, which was full of humor, intelligence, wit, and general "joie de vivre." He wrote of his travels in his blog

Survivors include his parents Pat and Cindy Falterman; maternal grandparents, Raymond and Evelyn LaLonde; son, Erik Oliver da Silva Falterman; brother, David Falterman; sister, Ellen Falterman; his girlfriend and love of his life, Isa Garcia; and numerous other relatives and friends.

A Memorial Mass will be held at St. Mary's Catholic Church (702 E. Houston St, Cleveland TX 77327) on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. with a luncheon to follow. A celebration of Patrick's life will be held on Sunday, September 11 from 3:30 p.m. until dark at the Cleveland Municipal Airport (17699 Highway 787 Cleveland TX 77327).

In lieu of flowers, his family would appreciate contributions to a scholarship fund for the Tarkington Schools that will be set up in his name at a later date.

- See more at:

Zachary Seth Esters 

LAFAYETTE - Funeral services will be held on Saturday, September 10, 2016 at a 1:00 PM Mass of Christian Burial at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Milton for Zachary Seth Esters, age 26, who died in an aviation accident while flying along the Trinity River near Cleveland, Texas on Saturday, September 3, 2016.

Interment will be in St. Joseph Cemetery in Milton.

Reverend William Schambough, Pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Milton, will be the Celebrant of the Funeral Mass and will conduct the funeral services. 

Survivors include his parents, Irvin Glenn Esters and Monica Maria Lormand Esters; his maternal grandmother, Mercedes Lormand; his paternal grandmother, Grace Esters; his Godparents, David and Leah Lormand; his girlfriend and the love of his life, Sara Brooks; one brother, Aaron; one sister-in-law, Heather; one niece, Arya Rose; and many wonderful friends, cousins, aunts, and uncles.

Those who knew Zachary knew him to be a fine human being. He had a kind heart and a loving spirit. He was so very much loved by so many people and he touched so many lives. The ripples he sends out from his short life will extend to many people, for many years, and for many generations. He was a risk-taker and an adventurer; a comedian and prankster, but most of all a loyal and loving son and friend. He was altruistic to a fault and many friends, family, and even new acquaintances were recipients of his kindness and hard work.

Zach packed more living into his 26 years than do most people twice his age.

He was preceded in death by his maternal grandfather Theophis "Bill" Lormand; his paternal grandfather Glenn Esters; and one aunt Beth Lormand..

Pallbearers will be Gabe LaFleur, Jarred Castro, Garrett Shexnailder, Kain Miller, Zach Privat, Will Chitwood, Jason Bodin, and Will Armstrong. 

The family requests that visitation be observed on Friday from 3:00 PM to 9:00 PM and will continue on Saturday from 8:00 AM until time of service. 

View the obituary and guestbook online at

Martin & Castille-SOUTHSIDE-600 E. Farrel Rd., Lafayette, LA 70508, 337-984-2811

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Patrick Falterman

Louisiana native, Zach Esters, right, was killed in a small plane crash in Liberty County on Saturday.  

LIBERTY COUNTY, Texas - Two men are dead after a single engine airplane crashed into the Trinity River Saturday evening. 

According to the Liberty County Sheriff's Office, the men were identified as 26-year-old Patrick Joseph Falterman from Cleveland, Texas who piloted the airplane.

He was accompanied by his friend, 25-year-old Zach Esters who was visiting from Lafayette, Louisiana. 

Authorities say the airplane stalled before it crashed in the river about a quarter mile from Highway 105.

Deputies, along with other first responders and volunteer fire departments, rushed to the site of the crash. When they arrived, they found the plane upside down in the river. 

Witnesses said they saw the plane flying rather low before it went nose first into the river around 7 p.m.

"The plane apparently tried to do a barrel roll," said Capt. Ken DeFoor of the Liberty County Sheriff's Office. "It came down nose first, hit the Trinity River and flipped over on it's back."

Falterman comes from an aviation family; his mother is a flight instructor and his father is a pilot for Southwest Airlines, according to friends. 

Those who know him say Falterman loved flying and adventure. "A free spirit is the best word I can say when it comes to him," said Morgan Galland, who knew Falterman from Tarkington High School. "He literally passed away doing what he loved." 

Falterman was developing a growing online presence through his website,, where he chronicled his trips traveling through South and Central America.

People all over the world followed his adventures on his blog and social media.

"He hitchhiked and traveled the world," said Galland. "He basically lived an awesome life."

Falterman's friends are hosting a candlelight vigil in his memory at Cleveland Municipal Airport on Sunday at 8 p.m. The event is open to the public, but relatives have asked members of the media to stay away.

Liberty County deputies are keeping a close watch on the crash site because the damaged aircraft remains in the water. Investigators say it will be removed at a later date. 

"He got to see and do many things that none of us are ever going to be able to do," says Galland. "He touched many lives."

Friends of Esters are also leaving condolences on his Facebook page. Esters apparently graduated from Ovey Comeaux High School in Lafayette, La. and studied at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. 

Friends have commented on his page saying he was a great person who was always happy, others said it didn't seem real and he was a good guy, taken too soon.  

An official from the FAA conducted the preliminary investigation and an autopsy has been ordered. 

The airplane will be moved from the river at a later date. 

Story and video:

Patrick Falterman

LIBERTY, Texas (AP) - The Liberty County Sheriff's Office says two men died in a plane crash as they were apparently performing stunts above the Trinity River.

The office says in a statement that the pilot Patrick Joseph Falterman, 26, Cleveland, Texas, and his friend, Zach Esters, 25, who was visiting from Louisiana, died after the plane went nose-down about 6:50 p.m. Saturday into the river about a quarter mile south of the Highway 105 bridge in Liberty County.

The office says witnesses saw the plane flying low over the river. The office says that pilot appeared to be attempting stunts, one of which was a backward loop when, witnesses said, the engine stalled at the peak of the loop maneuver causing the aircraft to roll over and crash.

Sheriff's deputies who were called to the scene found the plane 8 to 10 feet deep in the water.

The office says the witnesses to the crash including the family of the pilot.

Two people are dead after a single-engine plane crashed into the Trinity River a quarter-mile south of the SH 105 bridge Saturday evening around 7 p.m.

Witnesses on the scene say the pilot was performing trick maneuvers when the plane’s engine suddenly stalled or was turned off. 

The plane crashed nose-first into the shallow waters along the east bank.

The recovery of the victims and the plane is being hampered as the area where the plane crashed is accessible only by boat.

“It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen, “ said Joanne Gaines, of San Antonio, who was visiting friends in Liberty County. 

Gaines said it appeared the engine was turned off or stalled right before the crash.

“He was doing flips and barrel rolls right before that,” she said.

Other witnesses, including Jackie Martinez and her daughter, Blanca Barajas, 14, both of San Antonio, shared the same account as Gaines.

“He was doing flips and flying down close to the water,” Martinez said. “I was concerned he was going to crash into the people on shore.”

The sandy bank in this section of the Trinity River is a popular place for family outings. Every weekend, during warm weather months, large groups of people can be seen swimming in the river or playing on the sandbar. This Labor Day weekend was no different. At the time the plane crashed, 100 people or more were at the river, many who watched the plane as it went down.

“It was very traumatic and stressful to witness,” said Gaines. “I wasn’t expecting something like this to happen today.”

The deceased have been identified as pilot Patrick Joseph Falterman, 26, of Cleveland, and his friend, Zach Esters, 25, of Louisiana.

Shortly before 9 p.m., family members of the victims had arrived on the scene.

The investigation is being overseen by the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office and the Texas Department of Public Safety. Firefighters and first responders from Tarkington and Hardin volunteer fire departments, along with Liberty County EMS, are assisting.

Representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration are expected to arrive later this evening.


Jackie Martinez and her daughter, Blanca, from San Antonio, were among the witnesses to a plane crash Saturday evening near Moss Hill. The plane crashed into the Trinity River about a quarter-mile south of the SH 105 bridge.

LIBERTY COUNTY, Texas - Two men are presumed dead after a small plane crashed in Liberty County Saturday evening. 

The plane stalled before it crashed in the Trinity River about a mile from Highway 105, according to the Liberty County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer.

Witnesses said they saw the plane flying rather low before it went nose first into the river around 7 p.m.

We're told the two men are from the Cleveland area. Their identities have not been released at this time. 

We are working to gather more information and will update this story as soon as more details become available. 

Story and video:

LIBERTY COUNTY, Texas - An investigation is underway after a plane crash Saturday night in Liberty County, authorities said.

The crash happened around 7 p.m. about a quarter of a mile south of the Highway 105 bridge and the Trinity River, according to Ken DeFoor with the Liberty County Sheriff's Office. Several witnesses said they saw the plane stall, then turn over onto its back in the water.

"He was doing a barrel roll and then I heard the engine stop and the next thing I knew he crashed into the river," witness Joanne Gaines said.

The Bellanca 7ECA aircraft had at least two people on board. Authorities believe they did not survive.

Investigators have located the wreckage but so far they have not recovered it or any possible victims from the river.

The Federal Aviation Administration will lead the investigation.

Story and video:

A representative from the FAA says that two people were believed to have died when a small plane crashed into the Trinity River Saturday evening.

According to the FAA, a Bellanca 7ECA crashed into the Trinity River near the Highway 105 bridge around 7 p.m.  Law enforcement officials confirmed that both occupants died in the crash.

The FAA and NTSB will investigate the crash.

Liberty County officials tell us that there were about 50 witnesses in the area that saw the plane go down.

The names of the victims will be released by local law enforcement or the medical examiner after relatives are notified.



Anonymous said...

It's sad when one of these "bold pilots" decides to show off his less-than-amazing judgement and it ends with predicable results. Sorry if my comment appears callous. As a pilot, this is another totally preventable black eye for GA.

Anonymous said...

The pilot was a Millennial punk! He flew the aircraft with reckless indifference to human life. Good God, there were over a hundred people in the vicinity of the crash.

N1cavu said...

This type of irresponsible pilot conduct does in fact leave a black mark for "ALL" of us with 45 plus years in the cockpit accident free from the Luscombe 8A- Rolls Royce fans.

Now, we must remember to be sensitive to the grieving families.


Anonymous said...

Hammerhead stalls at low altitude above the river = not smart!