Those who died in Saturday’s mid-air collision between two historic aircraft in Dallas had decades of flight experiences and were aviation enthusiasts.
The collision that left six dead involved two World War II-era planes, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and a Bell P-63 Kingcobra. One pilot was in the P-63 while the five others were in the B-17.
No one on the ground was injured or killed. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
The Commemorative Air Force identified those who died as Terry Barker, Leonard “Len” Root, Curtis “Curt” Rowe, Craig Hutain, Dan Ragan and Kevin “K5″ Michels.
This is what we know about the victims:
Terry Barker and Len Root
A union representing former American Airlines pilots identified two of those killed in the B-17 as former members.
The union identified them as Terry Barker and Len Root.
“Our hearts go out to their families, friends, and colleagues past and present,” the union said in a tweet, adding counseling services will be available to members.
Root worked as a commercial pilot and manager for Commemorative Air Force’s Gulf Coast Wing since October 2021, according to his LinkedIn. Before that, he was a flight management system program controller and flight director for American Airlines for more than 35 years. He also studied aviation law and business at Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Barker was a former Keller city councilman and Army veteran, husband and father, the city’s mayor, Armin Mizani posted on Facebook.
Mizani added a Veterans Day display of 1,776 American flags will remain in front of Keller Town Hall an additional week in Barker’s honor.
John Baker, a former American Airlines colleague of Barker’s, said the two met several years ago while based out of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Both were tech airmen instructor pilots conducting training until Barker retired about two years ago after 36 years with the airline.
He told The Dallas Morning News Barker was a family man with a servant’s heart.
“He was really an enthusiast of aviation,” Baker said, adding that Barker had a hangar at the Northwest Regional Airport in Denton County where he spent a lot of time refurbishing a Beechcraft AT-6.
After retirement, Barker got involved with the commemorative air force and flying the B-17, Baker said.
“Our hearts are with the friends and family members of those we lost in Saturday’s Wings Over Dallas airshow accident,” American Airlines said in a statement. “As an airline, we’re providing support and resources for our colleagues affected by this tragedy and the family members of those lost, and as a community, we’re mourning alongside them.”
Curtis Rowe also died in the crash, according to the Ohio Civil Air Patrol. He lived in Hilliard, Ohio.
Rowe, who was a major in the Ohio Civil Air Patrol, spent more than 30 years with the organization and “held every crew rating possible and earned his Command Pilot Rating,” Col. Pete Bowden, commander of the Air Patrol, said in a statement.
“Curt touched the lives of thousands of his fellow Civil Air Patrol members, especially when flying cadets during hundreds of orientation flights over the course of his service,” Bowden said.
An executive officer with the Commemorative Air Force airbase in Georgia identified a fourth person who died as former United Airlines pilot Craig Hutain, 63, of Montgomery, Tex.
In his staff page for Tora Tora Tora airshows, a re-enactment of the Dec. 7, 1941, invasion of Pearl Harbor, Hutain said he first started flying with his father at just 10 years old. He flew solo for the first time at 17.
Hutain graduated from California Polytechnic State University in 1982, with a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering.
He promptly started flying for the airlines, starting with Rocky Mountain Airways and then United Airlines. Hutain began flying with both Tora and the Commemorative Air Force in 2009, according to the airshow’s website.
“It’s really a lifelong obsession for me,” Hutain said in a video interview with the Vintage Aviation News in July, standing in front of a P-63F.
Eric “Rick” Miller told The News he met Hutain in 2011 during a trip to the Vectren Dayton Air Show and said they kept in touch ever since, first connecting through their love of aviation and shared experiences as sons of men who served in World War II.
“Craig always made you feel like a lifelong friend,” Miller said, describing their friendship as “one of mutual respect for each other based on our love of keeping history alive.”
Ragan, 88, was a U.S. Navy veteran who lived in Dallas, according to a Longview News-Journal article.
He was a Tulsa, Oklahoma, native and served as a colonel. He was a radio operator in the combat information center on a Navy PV1W plane during the Korean War, the article says.
He had regularly participated in commemorative shows and also flew passengers in the historic aircraft.
Michels, 42, was known among friends as “K5.”
He’s featured throughout recent years in posts on the Commemorative Air Force Gulf Coast Wing’s B-17 Texas Raiders’ Facebook page. He also made his own videos in an effort to educate people about the historic aircraft he worked with.
A memorial to the dead
Along the fence on the south side of the airport, near the intersection of Highway 67 and West Red Bird Lane, Roberto Marquez, a Mexican-born, Dallas artist, set up the beginning stages of a memorial honoring the six aviators.
One by one, Marquez staked a hand-painted yellow, blue and red cross, adorned with American flags, ribbons and flowers, into the cold, stony soil. This process is “like second nature,” he says, methodically picking out a brush and a palette of stark, white paint, adding the names of the confirmed dead — Barker, Root and Rowe — to each cross.
Tragedy after tragedy, Marquez has used his art to create memorials and murals all over the world. This year alone, to name only a few, he recalled a trip to war-stricken Ukraine in March, then to Uvalde in May, when 19 children and two teachers were killed in the deadliest school shooting in state history, and another trip to San Antonio in June, after 53 migrants were found dead in a tractor-trailer.
“I feel good doing it,” he told The News. “It’s special when people come, and they feel it’s a safe place to cry, to get together, to trust with pictures and flowers. It’s moving to witness, and it’s a gift to be part of the healing, however small.”