HANSON — Scott Landis, a military pilot, had rushed home from an overseas deployment to Kosovo to say goodbye to his ailing father, who died of lung cancer earlier this month.
But before he returned to active duty on Sunday, Scott Landis, 34, sought to fulfill his father’s final wish and spread his ashes over the family home during a flight above the stately Victorian in Hanson.
Moments into the mission Friday afternoon, however, Scott Landis’s somber duty turned tragic as the plane he was piloting crashed, killing him and gravely wounding his 29-year-old brother, Patrick, who was also aboard, officials said.
“This meant a lot to him to get this done before he left. He was the pilot in charge in the aircraft and Patrick was going to be spreading the ashes,” said Adam Proulx, who has been friends with Scott Landis since high school and spent Saturday comforting his wife and young son at their home in Hanson.
Relatives were gathered at the family’s Main Street home when the crashed occurred, Proulx said. Richard Landis, 70, the patriarch who died Aug. 7, had spent years restoring the property, built in 1888, and raised his children there, according to friends and neighbors.
Bruce Wyman, 52, an adopted member of the Landis clan, said Scott had forged his life in the air from a young age, drawing pictures of airplanes and helicopters starting when he was 4 years old. As he got older, he took flying lessons, joined a model airplane club, and became a regular at Taunton Municipal Airport, where he was known as “ramp rat,” said Proulx.
“I just find it ironic and beautiful that Scotty [died while he] was trying to spread my stepfather’s ashes where he wanted them to be spread,” said Wyman, who lives in Hyannis. “It went horribly wrong, but there’s beauty in all of it.”
Authorities were alerted to the crash at about 4 p.m. Friday, by a man who was walking his dog near Cranland Airport in Hanson and called 911 after spotting a yellow, single-propeller plane partially submerged in a pond, according to the office of Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz.
A medical helicopter took Scott Landis to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where he died about 9:30 p.m. Friday, according to the district attorney’s office.
Patrick Landis was in surgery Saturday afternoon at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, said his aunt, Ann McLaughlin, 71, of Kingston. A hospital spokeswoman said he was in critical condition.
Patrick has a twin brother, Peter, and they are the two youngest children in a family of seven sons and a daughter, McLaughlin said.
The brothers were flying in Aeronca 7AC Champion plane, which crashed when the engine failed during takeoff, according to Proulx and Peter Oakley, the owner of Cranland Airport.
Scott Landis, who piloted Black Hawk helicopters for the Army National Guard, had years of experience flying the plane, and had taken it for a flight for several hours on Thursday, Proulx said. The man listed in Federal Aviation Authority records as the aircraft owner didn’t return a message Saturday.
Eric Weiss, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said investigators were en route to Hanson and that no cause would be determined at the scene. The agency will release a preliminary report on the crash in seven to 10 days, he said.
Scott Landis was grateful for the chance to be with his father during his final days, Proulx said. He called his father Pop and they spent hours watching baseball and working on cars, including a red Ford truck from the 1930s that they sought to restore, he said.
“The relationship that those two had is tremendous,” Proulx said.
Richard Landis was a master carpenter, who once operated an ice cream parlor known as Whole Scoop out of his home, according to William Grady, a neighbor.
“They’re really good folks,” he said. “We were shell-shocked [Saturday] when we found ... out.”
Scott Landis enlisted in the military after graduating from Whitman-Hanson Regional High School in 2000 and served in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said. He worked at Otis Air National Guard Base on Cape Cod as a battalion safety officer and chief instructor pilot, Proulx said.
“Scott was born with wings,” he said. “He loved everything about aviation.”
Four years ago, he married his wife, Staci, whom he had met in Maine. They bought a yellow house with green shutters in Hanson, where friends and family gathered on Saturday to mourn. The couple’s son, Jack, was born in May 2017, Proulx said.
McLaughlin said Scott Landis’s sudden death has been devastating for a family already mourning Richard Landis.
“It’s tough telling your 93-year-old mother that her son died and then her grandson,” she said. “But it is what it is. He’s with his father and my father, his grandfather.”