Pilot killed in helicopter crash remembered as inspirational

The two brothers became even closer when John taught James to fly two years ago.
The two brothers became even closer when John taught James to fly two years ago.
Published: Jun. 27, 2022 at 6:51 AM EDT
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LOGAN COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Of the six people killed in the helicopter crash Wednesday, June 22, was John Nagle. Nagle was a life-long pilot originally from the Gilbert area of Mingo County, West Virginia.

James Nagle, John’s brother, said he was an inspirational person and his hero. He says John had a love for chasing the thrill of flight.

“[He] loved all things aviation, especially the sense of freedom that you get from flying,” said James Nagle. “He loved the comradery of flying, he loved that just as much if not more than anything else.”

John leaves behind a family, including his wife and three children. The unexpected tragedy is something James says they need help with.

James is 11 years younger than John, he says John’s love for flight began when he was a teenager growing up in Mingo County.

“He always talked about his first experience in aviation when he was a kid and our dad used to work for Buck Harless. He got to ride in one of Buck’s helicopters one day,” said James.

John began taking flying lessons at the Williamson Airport.

“He talked about it all the time,” said James. ”He basically worked to pay for his flight lessons he just really loved aviation.”

The two brothers moved to Austin, Texas years ago, and John kept flying.

“It was infectious, the way he talked about flying and aviation. It really made it fun when you were with him,” said James.

John was an inspiration to James, and over the years, he shared the spirit of soaring with his brother. When James got his license over two years ago, their bond got stronger.

“He was really proud of me and it was something that we really bonded over. We could talk about aviation all day long,” said James.

The two went on a trip together just one week ago.

“Even last weekend is the most fresh one right before he came to Logan he and I went flying in my plane,” said James. “He didn’t get all the soap off of the airplane, so I sprayed him with the water hose, we were just playing around.”

As any big brother, John was always sprinkling in advice and warnings.

“We were getting ready to leave and he said make sure you get gas; one of the stupidest things you can do is crash your airplane because you ran out of gas,” said James.

Their father was a WWII veteran. When John traveled to Logan each year for the Freedom Festival to support veterans, he would tell James he looked forward to it all year long.

“He loved this community and even though this event, it cost him his life being here, it was the highlight of his year,” said James.

John was one of the three pilots on-board. Sharing the experience with veterans who flew similar helicopters to the Huey serving their country was a joyful experience.

“I think what he loved the most about this event was being able to come here and fly helicopters, but also the fellowship of the other aviators and veterans that have done this in the past,” said James. “I think that is what this event was giving those veterans another chance to come back.”

Six chairs were placed at the Logan Freedom Festival in Downtown Logan Saturday night lined with flowers. The memorial commemorated each of the lives lost.

James and his family went to the memorial, now without his favorite co-pilot and hero.

“Especially when you lose a loved one to tragic events like this, it is just heartbreaking,” said James.

John made it a point to find his way back home to his community and his roots each year. At 53 years old, he died doing what he loved most.

When asked what he would tell his brother if he could again, James said, “Thank you for always being there. Thank you for taking care of my kids when I couldn’t. I will do my best to take care of yours.”

For previous coverage of the crash, click here.

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