A Fort Collins man returning from an NFL football game with family members was killed in the crash of a small plane piloted by his father Sunday night in Chadron, Nebraska.
Noah Bruner, 21, of Fort Collins, was killed along with his father, Dr. Matthew Bruner, 44, of Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and Sydnee Brester, 19, of Gering, Nebraska, said his mother, Diedre Bruner, on Wednesday.
They were the only people onboard when the plane went down shortly after takeoff from Chadron Municipal Airport, she said.
They were returning from Minneapolis, where they had gone to watch the Vikings play the Green Bay Packers, and had just dropped off James Bruner in Chadron, where he attends college, when the plane crashed about 1½ miles away from the airport, the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal-Star reported.
James Bruner, 18, is Noah’s younger brother, and Brester was James' girlfriend.
Their next scheduled stop was the Northern Colorado Regional Airport in Loveland, to drop off Noah, before returning to Scottsbluff, Diedre Bruner said.
The Dawes (Nebraska) County Sheriff's Office referred questions about the crash to county attorney Vance Haug, who did not immediately respond to a voicemail message Wednesday.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash, the Journal-Star reported. There were no obvious causes, Diedre Bruner said, noting that her husband is meticulous about maintaining and inspecting the plane — identified in Federal Aviation Administration records as a 1978 Cessna T310R with two engines and six seats.
Matthew Bruner lost a brother in a car crash 19 years ago, she said, and insisted on flying everyone home so they wouldn’t be making long drives at night.
Noah was scheduled to work Monday morning at Power2Play Sports in Windsor, where he was an operations assistant, owner Michael Peterson said.
“He did everything from coaching Little Dribblers, which is our second- and third-grade basketball program, to managing facilities rentals and our concessions department,” Peterson said. “He was a big Vikings fan, which I am, too, so I really enjoyed that connection.
“He was a very quiet, very unassuming, very humble individual who just showed up every day and did whatever was asked of him. He was very mature for his age, and we were fast-tracking him into our marketing department and planned on promoting him and keeping him long-term.”
Noah began working part-time at Power2Play Sports in May after graduating from Chadron State with a bachelor’s degree in business and minor in sports management, Diedre Bruner said. His position there became full-time in late August or early September, she said.
He had previously been splitting his time between Scottsbluff, where he had a part-time job at a country club, and Fort Collins.
Diedre had been with her husband and two sons — she and Matthew also have three daughters, ages 25, 13 and 11 — in Fort Collins on Saturday to spend time with Noah and see him in action at work that night before flying back to Scottsbluff, Diedre Bruner said.
Noah was a quarterback at Scottsbluff High School and a “quiet leader” with a calming influence on the basketball team, his mother said. He also was elected homecoming king his senior year.
“He saw good in others, always tried to encourage and push them, and people just loved him,” she said.
Noah was well-liked by coaches, players, officials and staff at Power2Play, where he was one of seven full-time employees, Peterson said. The events center, which runs basketball, volleyball and pickleball leagues and tournaments, is planning to hold an annual event in his honor beginning next November, he said. Power2Play plans to help pay for his funeral expenses, Peterson said.
“Our staff members have really struggled with his loss,” Peterson said. “People appreciated him. He devoted his life to other people’s children, and who does that at 21 years of age? He was very wise and very mature beyond his age, and we’re going to miss him around here for a long time.”
Matthew Bruner grew up in South Dakota cheering for the Vikings, and Noah became a big fan while watching games with his father. A few years ago, Matthew bought Vikings season tickets “as a special way to spend time with his boys and bond with his boys,” Diedre said.
Matthew would fly his plane to and from Minneapolis for home games, sometimes bringing other family members along. He and the boys made a particularly big deal about the Vikings’ matchups with the Green Bay Packers, the team James adopted as his favorite following the death from cancer of family friend whose husband was a Packers fan.
Matthew had been flying since about 2008, Diedre said, a hobby he took up to honor his late brother’s dream of becoming a pilot. As devastating as the crash was, she finds comfort in what they were doing at the time.
“All of them were doing what they loved,” Diedre said. “Sydnee loved to be with James and spend time with James, and the boys loved to be at the games together, especially those games. And Matt loved to fly, and he loved to make the boys’ dreams come true.
“They all had the best day, the best weekend together. I’m just grateful for that time we’ve had together.”
Kelly Lyell reports on CSU, high school and other local sports and topics of interest for the Coloradoan. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter @KellyLyell and find him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/KellyLyell.news. If you 're a subscriber, thank you for your support. If not, please consider purchasing a digital subscription today.
This article originally appeared on Fort Collins Coloradoan: Fort Collins man dies in Nebraska plane crash with father, one other