Former NFL Star Russ Francis Among 2 Killed In Lake Placid Plane Crash


Russ Francis, a former NFL tight end who played for the New England Patriots and won a Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers in 1984, and another aviation enthusiast were killed in a small plane crash after takeoff from an airport in upstate New York on Monday, according to authorities.

A single-engine Cessna 177 carrying Francis, 70, and Richard McSpadden, 63, had just departed from the Lake Placid Airport when it ran into problems. According to the New York State Police, the plane struck a hillside near the airport.

Francis served as the CEO of Lake Placid Airways, a charter and sightseeing airline. According to the airline’s website, he was a longstanding aviation enthusiast who had operated a charter service in Hawaii for close to 50 years. McSpadden was an acknowledged authority on aviation safety and served as senior vice president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. According to the group, he served as the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds’ commander for a time during his career.

Francis was selected by the Patriots in the first round of the 1975 NFL Draft and played for the organization until 1980. He was a member of the team’s all-decade squad for the 1970s and the 35th-anniversary team. From 1977 to 1979, he was selected for the Pro Bowl three times in a row.

“Russ was a fan favorite throughout his playing career,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement. “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 joined the San Francisco 49ers in 1982 and was a member of the Super Bowl-winning squad in 1984 that defeated Miami. In 1987, he went back to New England, and the following year, he retired. He hauled in 393 passes for 5,262 yards and 40 touchdowns overall.

The National Transportation Safety Board is looking into the collision.