The bouquet of flowers tucked into the side of the large sign looked lonely, wavering in a cold Georgia morning breeze, but it was tucked firmly into the crevice. Poignant, touching, brilliant and, in a way, but defiant. A sign that life not only goes on but will continue to thrive, even if it seems a bit lonelier with the loss of friends and family and men who made the community they lived in richer with a tapestry of joy, love and care that touched all who knew them.
And they touched many - the social media community registered a throng of the sorrowful who remembered their dedication to their families, professions and community. But more than that, they remembered their hearts, their friendship and their joy of living.
On Saturday afternoon, the Peachtree City community was stunned and saddened to hear about the deaths of three men- three friends, comrades, adventurers- who were so well known in the city that often last names weren’t necessary. A doctor, a builder and a pilot/flight instructor- the things they had in common: A love of flying and the audacity to take life by the scruff and shake it until every crumb fell out of its pockets and a decades long friendship that included both business, civic organizations, charitable and political functions. But most of all, it included flying.
Dr. Jeffrey Van Curtis, 53; builder/developer Mike Rosetti, 60; and retired Delta pilot Willy Lutz, 69, died when the Beechcraft Baron they owned crashed at LaGrange-Callaway Airport. The 1980 fixed-wing, multi-engine aircraft was registered to Executive Aircraft Storage LLC of Peachtree City.
According to flight records, on Saturday morning the plane left Panama City Beach at 9:15 a.m., arriving at the LaGrange airport around 10:45 a.m., refueling and the friends began practicing touch and go maneuvers on the airport’s runway. The airport has no tower, no air traffic controllers, and though witness statements haven’t been completely confirmed, most indicated that as the three men practiced on one runway, a second plane was towing a glider on another, intersecting runway. It appeared that the Beechcraft pulled up to avoid hitting the glider, then seemed to nosedive into the ground. Again, reports are still unofficial and the National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA are investigating. The pilot and co-pilot were trapped under the instrument panel and died at the scene with the third man being transported to a Columbus medical center before succumbing.
Curtis is a well known and respected member of the medical community and medical director for The Doctor’s Office-Emory who had been practicing in Peachtree City since 1992. formerly of Chattanooga, TN, he initially started practicing medicine in West Palm Beach, FL before moving to Fayette County and opening his practice in Peachtree City. He was married with two children.
Guide publisher Charlie Nelson said he knew Curtis as patient at the medical group and also through their business relationship with Curtis advertising in Nelson’s publication.
“It’s such a shock. I knew of his love for planes. I know he used to take his family on vacations, just flying with them to destinations.”
Rossetti moved from his native Pennsylvania to Chicago, then to Peachtree City in 1980 forming Ravin Homes with his father, mother and siblings. Since that time his firm built thousands of homes in over 60 communities in Fayette and surrounding counties. He was an avid outdoorsman and sportsman, with hobbies that included hunting, fishing and travel. He was especially passionate about flying and died doing something he loved and in which he found great joy. He was married with three children.
Willy Lutz, the instructor that also died in the crash, had taught both men to fly. He was in the process of teaching Curtis' teenage son how to fly as well. He leaves behind two children, stepchildren and grandchildren.
“Today our community is mourning the tragic loss of Michael Rossetti, Dr. Jeffery Curtis and Mr. Willy Lutz. They were long time residents of Peachtree City and they enriched our community with their talents. I will always remember Michael Rossetti as one of the first people I had the pleasure of meeting here in Peachtree City, when he built our home 22 years ago. Our thoughts and prayers are with their many friends, colleagues, and family members,” noted Peachtree City Mayor Vanessa Fleisch.