Melbourne plane crash victims identified; final radio transmission released

Updated:

Loading

MELBOURNE, Fla.,None - Airport officials confirmed the identities of the three people aboard a Cirrus SR22 private airplane who died when it crashed in the woods near Melbourne International Airport shortly after 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

Robert W. Kurrus Jr., 44, of Satellite Beach, James Christopher Franklin, 24, of Palm Bay and Justin Lee Gaines, 23, of Palm Bay were killed in the crash.

"A great father, a great husband, a great son [and] tremendous businessman," said Kurrus' father, Robert Kurrus Sr.

Kurrus was a well-known businessman in Brevard County, who made some of his living in the movie theater business.

Kurros owned Premiere Theaters in Melbourne and was a former executive for Regal Cinemas.



Kurrus Sr. said his son was a devoted husband and father of three children.

"The most important thing is we know who he's with. He went to be with the Lord and we have confidence of that as a family," said Kurrus Sr.

He said his son was a meticulous pilot who had been flying for several years.

"He's very thorough. I've been on three flights with him myself," Kurrus Sr. said. "Very safety conscious and meticulous. He loved life and his family too much to have done anything silly."

Kurros was returning from a short flight with his friends, Franklin and Gaines.

Air traffic control tower recordings provided to WFTV by ATC.net reveal what is believed to be the final dialogue between Kurros and the tower.

"Downwind for nine right; four Sierra Romeo," Kurrus said in the transmission.

"I'll get you nine west, if I can. I'm a little busy right now." someone in the control tower replied.

"Alright, fine, four Sierra Romeo," Kurrus said.

"Do you have the Cirrus there? He's about a mile final for nine right?" a tower operator said.  

"I'm on a real short…for nine right (runway) to land now," Kurrus said.

"Sierra Romeo no! I needed you to extend…" said the tower operator."Cut it in tight now, cut it in tight to nine right!"

Another pilot radioed the tower and asked,"Tower, did you see that?"

"I did," replied the tower.

The plane crashed in a wooded area not far from the runway.

The fatalities were the first in at least one decade at the Melbourne airport, officials said.

The airport opened in 1929 and served as a training base for World War II pilots.

The airport was ranked the 32nd busiest general aviation airport in the country in 2010.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it will take one year for them to determine what caused the crash.

Read: Premiere Theater in Melbourne releases statement