UPDATE: Sun Prairie family still in shock over pilot's death - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

UPDATE: Sun Prairie family still in shock over pilot's death


SUN PRAIRIE (WKOW) -- Terry Lipka says his nephew, Jeremy Lipka, who died in a plane crash in Afghanistan on Monday was like a son to him.

"He didn't have a dad so I kind of took that spot there for him. We were real close…this hurts," Terry Lipka said.

Born in Madison and raised in Sun Prairie before moving to Minnesota, Jeremy Lipka, 37, was the pilot of a civilian plane that crashed in Afghanistan, near Bagram Airfield. He was one of seven Americans who died in the crash.

Jeremy was flying the 747-400 cargo plane to Dubai, when cargo began shifting after takeoff, according to Terry. The crash happened at approximately 6:00 a.m. CST, and cargo consisted of vehicles and routine general cargo, according to National Airlines.

"There were actually two shifts. The first shift, he did actually make it out of that one. But then the second shift happened and that's the one -- that was the bad one," Terry said, explaining that Jeremy was speaking to a dispatcher during the first cargo shift and then lost communication during the second one.

Jeremy always wanted to be a pilot, according to Terry, who calls Jeremy the "successful one" in the family. He says he lived in Sun Prairie until he was an adolescent, before moving to Minnesota, and began his career as a pilot transporting cargo through Latin America.

"I was shocked at first. That news floors you. First you don't believe it, then all of a sudden this is real," Terry said, of receiving news of Jeremy's death from his sister, Jeremy's mother, at about 11 a.m. on Monday.

"She was crying and she said, ‘Jeremy died.' At first I didn't understand her. She was trying to get her words out over the crying. Finally I understood her, and I said, ‘Oh boy,'" Terry said.

Representatives from National Airlines are supposed to be en route to Afghanistan to investigate the crash, according to Terry. 

"Safety is always our top priority at National Airlines. This is a devastating loss for our family and we'll work diligently with authorities to find the cause," National Airlines president Glen Joerger said in a statement.

The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for crash, but that has not been confirmed. And Jeremy's family does not suspect foul play.

"The Taliban – they want to take credit for this. This is still under investigation. The big question is: why did the cargo shift? It wasn't supposed to shift. I'm going to miss Jeremy. He was a good kid," Terry said.


MADISON (WKOW) -- The pilot of a plane that crashed in Afghanistan Monday grew up in Sun Prairie, according to the pilot's uncle.

Terrance Lipka, of Sun Prairie, confirms to 27 News his nephew, 37-year-old Jeremy Lipka, was the pilot of the plane that crashed, killing all seven people on board. All were American.

It was a civilian flight out of Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan. Officials say cargo on board the plane shifted upon takeoff, throwing off the plane's center of gravity. The plane then appears to have stalled and crashed to the ground, bursting into flames upon impact.

Terrance Lipka says Jeremy lived in Sun Prairie before moving to Minnesota sometime during his elementary school years.

Lipka was working for National Air Cargo and the plane was owned by its subsidiary, National Airlines.

National Air Cargo Vice President Shirley Kaufman said Lipka was one of two pilots in command on the flight.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday it is sending a team of investigators to Afghanistan to assist local authorities in the crash investigation.

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