A plane crash Sunday in Tennessee that killed two Navy pilots hit close to home for a New Orleans-area family.
One of the pilots, Lt. Patrick Ruth, 31, grew up in Metairie.
Ruth, who was an instructor, and his student, Lt. j.g. Wallace Burch, 25, of Horn Lake, Mississippi, went down in a T-45C training jet in the Cherokee National Forest near Tellico Plains, southwest of Knoxville.
Ruth graduated from Brother Martin High School in 2004, where he lettered in football and track and field. He was set to marry his college sweetheart later this month.
Brad Duplechain, who coached Ruth as a member of the track team, remembered him as "tremendously driven," noting the young athlete was the captain and MVP of regional- and district-champion teams his senior year.
"He brought his 'A' game every day," Duplechain said. "You always looked to him to lead the team. You always knew you were getting 100 percent from him."
Duplechain said it was obvious even in high school that Ruth would go on to do great things with his life.
"With his leadership qualities as a student here, to see that just continue throughout his life and be an instructor at such an early age, that doesn't surprise me at all," Duplechain said.
Ruth graduated from Tulane University. He spent the past nine years as a Naval aviator.
He was most recently stationed at Naval Air Station Meridian in Mississippi. He served in a training squadron at the base near Meridian since 2015
Former Brother Martin track coach Dennis Panepinto paid Ruth the ultimate compliment.
"He's what you always wanted your son to grow up to be," Panepinto said. "He's what you wanted your daughter to marry. Great kid. He would do anything you asked of him."
Panepinto also said Ruth was selfless, always putting others first.
"He'd do anything for you, bend over backwards, whatever, give you the shirt off his back, if need be," Panepinto said. "It's a great loss."
While the loss is great, Duplechain said, how Ruth is already remembered is a testament to his character.
"He'll just add to that legacy we have of people that we look back on and admire their qualities as students and human beings," Duplechain said. "What he was doing to protect all of us and serve all of us, it's definitely a tragic loss for us as a country."
The cause of the crash remained unknown Wednesday. An investigation is underway.
Funeral arrangements were not immediately released.