Former Los Angeles Dodgers player Steve Sax has issued a statement saying that his 33-year-old son who had always dreamed of being a pilot was among five U.S. Marines killed during a training flight crash earlier this week in the California desert.
Capt. John J. Sax was among the aircrew of an Osprey tiltrotor aircraft that went down during training in a remote area in Imperial County, about 115 miles (185 kilometers) east of San Diego and about 50 miles (80 kilometers) from Yuma, Arizona.
“It is with complete devastation that I announce that my precious son, Johnny was one of the five US Marines that perished on Wednesday, June 8, in the Osprey Military crash near San Diego,” Steve Sax said in a statement reportedly published Saturday.
“For those of you that knew Johnny, you saw his huge smile, bright light, his love for his family, the Marines, the joy of flying airplanes and defending our country! He was my hero and the best man I know, there was no better person to defend our country.”
The former Dodger said his son had wanted to be a pilot since he was young and would talk about the types of planes that were flying overhead while playing in the outfield in Little League baseball.
“There was never any doubt from a young age that Johnny would be a pilot and his passion was to fly!” the statement said. “This loss will change my life forever and is a loss to not only the Marines but this world!”
Steve Sax played in the Major Leagues from 1981 to 1994, winning two world championships during his seven years as a second-baseman with the Dodgers. Fans, Major League Baseball and the team offered condolences on social media.
“The Los Angeles Dodgers are saddened to hear about the passing of Steve Sax’s son, John, and the five Marines who lost their lives in this week’s tragic helicopter accident. Our thoughts and condolences go out to their families and friends,” the Dodgers said in a tweet Saturday.
John J. Sax is survived by his wife, Amber, who is pregnant with their second child, and their 20-month-old daughter, said Dodgers spokesperson Steve Brener.
Sax, of Placer, California, was one of two pilots killed in the crash, along with Capt. Nicholas P. Losapio, 31, of Rockingham, New Hampshire.
Also killed were three tiltrotor crew chiefs: Cpl. Nathan E. Carlson, 21, of Winnebago, Illinois; Cpl. Seth D. Rasmuson, 21, of Johnson, Wyoming; and Lance Cpl. Evan A. Strickland, 19, of Valencia, New Mexico.
The Marines were based at Camp Pendleton and assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 364 of Marine Aircraft Group 39, part of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing headquartered at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego.
The Osprey, a hybrid airplane and helicopter, flew in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but has been criticized by some as unsafe. It is designed to take off like a helicopter, rotate its propellers to a horizontal position and cruise like an airplane.
The cause of the crash was under investigation.