A 37-year-old former Pine Island, Minn., man was the pilot of a civilian cargo plane that crashed in Afghanistan on Monday, killing him and six other people on board, family members said.
Jeremy Lipka had been flying cargo planes for a civilian contracting company in Iraq and Afghanistan for several years and had several close calls in the past. Afghan officials said the plane crashed shortly after takeoff from Bagram Air Field. A company representative called the family Monday and informed them of the crash.
“All’s we know is that there was a plane accident in Afghanistan,” said his stepfather, Dave Buttman. “There was risk there all the time. He knew the risks. He volunteered to take the trips. When they went to Iraq they used to have military escorts. He had a little more safety that way. But for some reason the U.S. didn’t provide that any more. Basically, you’re taking your chances flying in there and he was just happy to be one of the pilots to do it.”
The New York Times reported the plane belonged to National Air Cargo, a military contractor based in Orchard Park, N.Y., outside Buffalo. Military officials said that the cause of the crash was being investigated, but that there had been no enemy activity in the area at the time.
Lipka, who graduated from high school in Pine Island, had lived in Michigan for about 10 years. The family last saw him about two weeks ago when he came to visit his daughter, his stepfather said.