A Louisiana man who was killed in a plane crash on a lakefront is being hailed a hero by his relatives for saving his girlfriend's life moments before the collision.
Reginald Hillard Jr. was traveling with his girlfriend Brianna Davis on Aug. 27 from the New Orleans Lakefront Airport when the plane crashed into the waters of Lake Pontchartrain.
Davis surprised her boyfriend with the plane ride. Although Hillard was afraid to fly, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see New Orleans from above. The couple took pictures on the plane before tragedy struck.
“She surprised him and he took the challenge,” Yolanda White, Hillard’s cousin, told WDSU.
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Davis was the sole survivor and was taken via private yacht to a local hospital, according to KTLA. Authorities found the bodies of the two other men on board when they cut the aircraft open.
According to officials, the unidentified pilot was experienced, but did not call for help. His corpse was found buckled into his seat.
Ben Morris, the airport’s director, said that the plane hit a rainstorm around the time of the crash. Authorities have noted that crashes have occurred in the same location before.
One of the victims was Hillard, who shoved Davis out of the plane before it crashed -- saving her life.
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"He's the hero. He was a hero living. You know, he died that way," White told WDSU.
"This was his first plane flight ever," she added. "First time he flew on a plane. And it was a surprise from his girlfriend Brianna."
Hillard was a Baton Rouge rapper, tattoo artist and father of three.
"They gave us the signal that there were two bodies in there, so we knew it was his and the pilot's," White said.
Hillard's family is still mourning the tragedy and turn to their faith for support.
"He loved his life and he lived it to the fullest. And this is God's will," said Anthony Coleman, Hillard's cousin. "There isn't [anything] we can do about it, but accept it."
Federal officials are investigating the cause of the crash.