CMU alumnus dies in plane crash in upstate New York


Reed Phillips, a 25-year-old from Midland and a 2012 Central Michigan University graduate, died in a plane crash in North Elba, New York on Saturday morning.

The single-engine plane carrying Phillips and two other people stalled and crashed while attempting to land at Lake Placid Municipal Airport in the Adirondacks, according to New York State Police.

Law enforcement representatives said the pilot, Fred Kafka, 63, attempted to land but was stopped by controllers when a plane approached the designated landing area from another direction. While making a second approach, the aircraft crashed in a nearby field. All three of the plane's occupants died in the crash.

Phillips' mother, Toni, was informed of her son's death on Saturday.

"We have not really come to grips with what has happened," she said. "But hearing from his classmates has made us feel better. Lots of them have reached out to us. He made so many friendships over there and we are very grateful for all of those people being part of his life."

Phillips didn't just make friends with students during his time at CMU, he also forged strong relationships with his instructors who taught in the Athletic Training department. One of those professors was Rene Shingles, the program director of the school of rehab and medical services.

Shingles taught Phillips in five different classes during the course of his two years in the Athletic Training program.

"He was an incredibly energetic student," she said "He always had that smile on his face; he was a very passionate young man. You get close with students when you have them in class that often and that is the way we were."

Phillips was attending Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York before the crash, a course Shingles helped him realize.

One of Phillips' classmates in the program was Adam Lucassian, 24, of Washington, Mich. Lucassian said he and other students who were close to Phillips have been rocked by the loss of their friend.

"He was always there to make sure all of us were laughing," he said. "That was Reed. Always looking to have a good time. He was just so light hearted and genuine. He is without a doubt one of the nicest kids I've ever known. What has happened is just awful."

On the night they were informed of his death, Lucassian and about 11 other students from the athletic training program told stories to console each other through their collective mourning.

"Just seeing how much Reed meant to all of them is tremendous," Toni Phillips said. "When it comes to his former classmates, if they were important to Reed, then they are important to us."

Lucassian said he was making plans with Phillips before his death.

"I was just thinking I should call him the other day," Lucassian said. "The last time we talked, I told him I had landed a job in Boston and we would both be on the East Coast. We were going to go hiking together."

Another classmate, Michelle Gambino, 25, of Utica, said she remembers the car trips back-and-forth from Mount Pleasant to Midland she would take with Lucassian and Phillips. One year, the three did their training rotations with the Northwood University football team.

"He was always there to step in and be a team player," Gambino said. "We used to always chew and spit sunflower seeds at the (Northwood) spring football practice. That's something I'll always remember. We had a pretty close bond, all of us."

Lucassian said the Phillips family was in the process of making funeral arrangements.

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