San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl winner Russ Francis killed in New York plane crash | US News

Former American football player Russ Francis has been killed in a plane crash alongside a former US air force commander.

Mr Francis, 70, who played for the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers in the NFL, and Richard McSpadden, 63, died on Sunday afternoon when their small plane crashed after taking off from an upstate New York airport.

New York State Police said the Cessna 177 plane “encountered trouble” and crashed into an embankment at the corner of Lake Placid airport just after departing the runway.

Mr Francis, who won the Super Bowl with the 49ers in 1985, was president of Lake Placid Airways, which runs charter and scenic flights, and had been a qualified pilot for nearly 50 years, according to NBC News.

He played tight end for both the 49ers and Patriots for a total of 13 seasons, making the latter’s Pro Bowl selection for three straight seasons from 1977-79.

“Russ was a fan favourite throughout his playing career,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement after his death.

“He was a dynamic player on the field who had an even bigger personality off it. He knew no boundaries, pushed the limits and lived his life to the fullest.

“Our thoughts are with Russ’s family, friends, teammates and the many Patriots fans who mourn his loss.”

In a statement, the 49ers said they were “saddened to learn of the tragic passing”, adding: “We send our deepest condolences to the Francis family during this difficult time.”

Mr Francis joined the San Francisco 49ers in 1982 and was part of the team that beat Miami in the Super Bowl in January 1985.

He returned to New England in 1987 and retired the year after, having made a career total of 393 catches for 5,262 yards and scored 40 touchdowns.

Mr Francis ranks 21st of all-time in catches and 16th in receiving yards for the Patriots and 30th and 32nd in the same categories for the 49ers.

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Mr McSpadden was a senior vice president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and was known as an aviation safety expert.

The organisation said his career included a stint as commander of the Thunderbirds, a demonstration squadron and display team in the US air force.

The crash is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

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