Captain Kelly C. Hinz, USMC
Star Tribune -- MINNEAPOLIS / St PAUL, May 5, 2005 --
Capt. Kelly C. Hinz, 30, whose hometown is Woodbury, Minn., was one of two U.S. Marine pilots killed in a plane crash over south central Iraq on Monday, his family said Thursday.
His death came less than a year after his father -- Donald Hinz, a former military pilot -- was killed when his vintage fighter plane crashed during an air show in Wisconsin.
Kelly Hinz and the other pilot killed this week -- Maj. John C. Spahr, 42, of Cherry Hill, N.J. -- had deployed with an F/A-18 "Hornet" fighter group aboard the USS Carl Vinson, and the ship lost contact with them at 10:10 p.m. Monday, said a statement from the U.S. Central Command headquarters. There was no initial indication of hostile fire in the area at that time, the statement said, and the incident is under investigation.
Capt. Kelly C. HinzAfter growing up in Minnesota, Hinz and his wife, Molly, lived with their 7-month-old daughter Abby in San Diego, Calif. His mother, Pat Hinz, continues to live in Woodbury. One of his three brothers, Ben, is an F/A-18C pilot based in California. The other brothers are Kurt and Luke. The family issued a statement on Thursday and has declined to comment beyond that.
Hinz graduated from St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights in 1993 and the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul in 1997.
"I am praying for the Hinz family, for them to have faith in God," said Bill Miley of Hayward, Wis., who coached Kelly Hinz on an Alpine ski team that won a state high school championship in 1993.
Miley and others gave Kelly Hinz credit for bolstering the family's spirits after his father's accident in late May 2004.
"It was very important to Kelly and his family that they live his father's legacy," Miley said. "This young man was an unbelievable person. ... Everyone he touched walked away feeling better."
Donald Hinz is memorialized on a website for the Red Tail Project -- which celebrates the Tuskegee Airmen, African-American fighter pilots of World War II.
"Don had a passion for telling a vastly unheralded part of American history in a way that didn't include patting himself on the back," said Stan Ross, who coordinates the Red Tail Project and worked on it with Don Hinz.
"That's the way he carried himself, and that's the way he raised his family," Ross said Wednesday. "I learned a lot from him, and I know his sons did, too."
Kelly Hinz shared a love of flying with his father and his brothers, said former high school and college friends.
"He got those boys hooked on flying from Day One," said Randall Mardell, who was captain of the championship ski team.
Hinz's interests didn't stop with flying or skiing, his friends said, but he was remarkably well rounded and accomplished.
"This is the guy we would want over there fighting for us," said Mardell, who now lives in Irving, Texas. "He is the poster, better than anything you see on TV. A good-looking guy, an athlete. ... I know it's a cliché, but he is exactly the kind of guy every mother dreams her daughter will marry."
At St. Thomas Academy, Hinz lettered on the rifle team as well as the Alpine ski team, said Mary Culbertson, the school's communications director. He served on the Honor Guard, and he also contributed to a literary magazine, the school newspaper and the yearbook.
Later, when he was at the University of St. Thomas (where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in business administration with a specialty in entrepreneurship), he worked as the high school's assistant Alpine ski coach.
"Kelly probably wasn't the best skier on the hill, but he was the prettiest," Miley said. "His flow and his style was an art."
During college, he got up before dawn to report for work at his father's former company, Eagle Sanitation, before attending classes and training for skiing and other athletic activities, said Jerrod Amadick, a former roommate who now lives in Eagan.
"He had his morals straight, he had his family straight, he had his faith straight," Amadick said. "He was one of those guys who set a goal and just did it."
"He called me on the night before he left," Miley said. "He said, 'I feel great. This is what I have trained for.' He was so excited to go and take part in the operations over there that when I hung up the phone, I felt positive for him."
Military officials have released few details that would shed light on what went wrong with the flight of the fighter jets. The planes were about 30,000 feet over south-central Iraq when they lost contact with their base, the Associated Press reported. Pentagon officials said one F/A-18 fuselage had been found about 15 miles from Karbala in south-central Iraq, and that Spahr was found strapped in his ejection seat some distance from the wreckage. They provided no information about the recovery of the second pilot except to say that the body had been found.
Spahr was an instructor at the Navy's so-called Top Gun school for fighter pilots in Nevada and later served aboard the USS Constellation during combat operations in 2003 in Iraq, according to a Navy biography.