Russ Francis, former New England Patriots tight end, dies in plane crash

Oct. 2 (UPI) -- Former Pro Bowl tight end Russ Francis, who played for the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers, died after he was involved in a plane crash in Lake Placid, N.Y., officials announced Monday. He was 70.

The New York State Police said that Francis and Richard McSpadden, 63, were onboard a Cessna 177, which crashed Sunday afternoon into an embankment at the Lake Placid Airport. Officers responded shortly after 4 p.m. Francis and McSpadden were pronounced dead at the scene.


The airplane "crashed under unknown circumstances short of the runway" while attempting to land, according to a preliminary report from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Police, the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board said their investigation is ongoing.

McSpadden was the senior vice president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Air Safety Institute.

Preliminary findings from the investigation did not include information about who was piloting the plane, but the AOPA stated that McSpadden was in the right seat when the aircraft "experienced an emergency after takeoff."

"The airplane attempted to return to the airport but failed to make the runway," the AOPA said.


Francis, a Seattle native, attended the University of Oregon. He was the No. 16 overall pick by the Patriots in the 1975 NFL Draft.

Francis made three Pro Bowls through his first six seasons. He retired after the 1980 season, but was traded in 1982 and returned to play for the 49ers.

Francis, who won a Super Bowl in 1985 with the 49ers, returned to the Patriots during the 1987 season. He spent his final season with the Patriots in 1988.

"On behalf of the entire New England Patriots organization, we extend our sincerest sympathies to the family of Russ Francis, who tragically passed away yesterday," Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement.

"Russ was a fan favorite throughout his playing career. He was a dynamic player on the field who had an even bigger personality off it. He knew no boundaries, pushed the limits and lived his life to the fullest."


Francis totaled 393 catches for 5,262 yards and 40 touchdowns over 167 career appearances.

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