Community collects messages for family of Shaw AFB pilot killed in crash

Community collects messages for family of Shaw AFB pilot killed in crash
Air Force pilot 1st Lt. David Schmitz was 32 years old when he died in the crash. (Source: Laughlin Air Force Base)

SUMTER, S.C. (WLTX/CBS News) - The Sumter community is continuing to mourn the loss of a Shaw Air Force Base pilot who died one week ago in a training mission.

First Lt. David Schmitz of the 77th Fighter Squadron was killed on the evening of June 30 when his F-16 jet crashed at the base.

Staff members at Sports Clips in Sumter, the barber shop Schmitz frequented, say he was a regular with a smile that would brighten everyone's mood.

"He was just a great guy, just a pleasant guy," Stylist Brandy Norris says. "He just had a way when he walked in the door, in the way that he said, 'Hi, how are y'all doing,' that you just couldn't help but smile."

Norris says she remembers his smile and easy-going personality.

"He was just one of the ones that you were just happy that he walked in," she says. "Always a smile on his face; just easy to get along with. He treated everybody with respect and kindness and that's the one thing that I think we remember the most about him."

Norris also says Schmitz was passionate about his work in the Air Force.

"He would light up when he would talk about being a pilot and it's what he always wanted to do," she says.

When they found out about his death, they wanted to help in some way.

"We were stunned," Norris says. "It's heartbreaking when you get to know these guys like this and then some tragic, a tragedy like this happens."

Now, the shop is collecting messages for his family to show support. "Sumter is a good community and we take care of each other," she says.

Staff member Stephanie Amerson says they want to "give back to his family to help her, so she knows she's not alone."

The crash into the investigation that claimed Schmitz’s life is ongoing, Shaw officials say.

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