GRAPEVINE (CBSDFW.COM) - Diane Yates got the call no pilot’s wife ever wants to get.
Her husband, Charlie Yates, 63, was the passenger in a plane crash that took place Saturday just after take off near Northwest Regional Airport.
“That’s something I’ve thought of before since I’ve been married to a pilot for 42 years,” Diane Yates said.
Seconds after the crash four of Charlie Yates’ good friends arrived to help.
Two of his co-workers had heard a plane take off with a strange noise coming from the engine so they went outside to see what was happening.
What they saw was a single engine plane take off and clear the runaway, then clip the tops of the trees just south of the airport, and crash.
They didn’t know their friend and fellow flight instructor, Charlie Yates was in that plane until they got to the wreckage and heard him moaning.
“I’m glad it was us that showed up first to be there with Charlie,” said Glenn Harrington, Director of Operations for MarcAir Aviation, where Charlie Yates worked as the chief flight instructor.
Yates was conscious when they arrived. He was a man of God. To keep him awake, his friends asked him to recite his favorite scripture.
Knowing he was surrounded by close friends gave Diane Yates some solace.
“Such a relief because I know his boss and the pilots that are his instructors, right away, they were praying for him. They were saying scripture verses and Charlie was saying scripture to them,” Diane Yates said.
Friends and family members say God was his first passion, his family and helping others were a close second.
Friends say Yates was on the plane to help the pilot, Chris Pratt, who was working toward becoming a certified flight instructor.
Pratt died at the scene.
Family members say even as Yates was fighting for his life, he was thinking of others.
“They tell us at the hospital, he was comforting those who were working on him, the trauma team and the chaplain, who was a brand new chaplain,” said Diane Yates.
“He was always putting others first, their interests first. He was very selfless,” said his daughter, Angela Guthrie, who is also married to a pilot.
Charlie Yates was a decorated Air Force pilot who spent 15 years flying commercial planes for Delta Airlines and after retiring became a flight instructor.
Along with a passion for photography and flying, Yates loved to waterski. He would often hit the water at sunrise before he went flying.
Charlie Yates was a prominent member of Countryside Bible Church.
Family member say he spent every minute be-friending others and teaching them about God.
Even the neighborhood kids wanted to hang out with Charlie, Diane Yates said.
“They would come to the door and say, ‘Can Charlie come out to play?’ and he’d go out and throw the football with them,” Diane Yates said.
Days before the fatal crash, Yates was preparing to teach a lesson about heaven, something his family now says was a calling from God.
“He was doing what he loved,” said Diane Yates. “He could have done other things but he loved flying and he loved people.”
The family expects hundreds to attend his funeral. Arrangements are pending.
The FAA and NTSB are investigating the cause of the crash.