Nick Duran and Felipe Lopez

Cleburne High School alumnus Nick Duran, left, and Felipe Lopez were killed in a Thursday plane crash in rural Johnson County.

 

The two men killed in Thursday’s plane crash have been identified as Cleburne High School graduates.

Nick Duran, 20, and Felipe Lopez, 20, were the pilot and passenger in the plane.

Bono firefighters responded at 9:29 p.m. to reports of a plane down, Bono Fire Chief Ralph Vaquera said.

Vaquera said the plane — an American Aviation AA-1A owned by Duran — apparently went down earlier in the day but was not reported for several hours.

Bono firefighters traveled county roads 1123 and 1124 looking for the plane. A Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper who was also helping in the search found the crashed plane near a private oil field road. The plane crashed about a mile from County Road 1123, Vaquera said.

Vaquera added that the plane sustained heavy damage but did not catch fire.

Duran was a cadet at the United States Air Force Academy. He obtained his pilot’s license in 2020.

“The impact of losing Nick has been felt throughout our Academy,” USAFA Superintendent Lt. Gen. Clark said. “He was our brother — a friend, teammate, and classmate — and will always be a part of USAFA. I am so proud of how our cadets have leaned on each other and honored Nick’s life.

“While words cannot lessen the loss felt by his family, we want to send our heartfelt condolences to Nick’s family and friends — you are in our thoughts and prayers.”

Duran played baseball for Cleburne High School from 2015-18. He was the 2018 All-Johnson County defensive player of the year and the 2018 District 9-5A defensive player of the year.

Lopez played soccer and participated in cross country and track for Cleburne High School from 2015-18. He was a two-time all-district and All-Johnson County selection in soccer and also a key part of the Yellow Jackets’ cross country program.

As a senior in 2018, Lopez served as a team captain for Yellow Jacket soccer, earning first-team all-district honors and first-team All-Johnson County recognition that season. Lopez helped Cleburne cross country win the 2017 district championship as he finished 14th overall at the district meet.

“Our teachers, coaches and administrators who had the opportunity to know Nick Duran and Felipe Lopez are deeply saddened by the loss of these two remarkable young men and Cleburne High School graduates of 2018,” Cleburne ISD Director of Community Relations Lisa Magers said. “Both competed for the Jackets as student athletes. 

“It was wonderful to see Nick achieve his dream of continuing his baseball career at the college level — and not just any college — the US Air Force Academy. Nick was also an academic leader among his classmates, graduating in the Top Ten. 

“We were so proud to see Felipe experience the international spotlight for his vocal talents, which were truly amazing. Whether in the classroom, on the cross country course or the soccer field, on the job — or on the stage — his work ethic and dedication to giving his best were always present. 

“Those of us who knew Nick, Felipe — or both — remember students who were bright, polite and respectful, friendly and very generous with their smiles. Our thoughts and prayers for their families will continue.”

GoFundMe pages have been set up for both of the men. Duran’s, which was created by Alyssa Naused on behalf of Cadet Squadron 29, had raised almost $10,000 as of Wednesday afternoon.

“Nick was passionate in all aspects of his life,” Naused said. “He worked ceaselessly towards earning his private pilot’s license and aspired above all to be an Air Force pilot upon graduation from USAFA. As dedicated as Nick was to his dreams, he was more passionate towards his commitment to those around him, especially his family.”

Naused said that Duran was described to be “the most positive cadet I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.”

“Nick was a brother, exuding constant joy and bearing an infectious smile, eager to share his love with everyone around him,” she said. “He cared for those around him in action and word, regardless of whether he knew them. He was a catcher for the Air Force Baseball Team where he impacted not just his friends, but every individual with whom he interacted. 

“To describe Nick as inspiring would be an understatement; Nick was one of the best. It was easy to see how much the underclassmen of CS-29 looked up to and respected Nick. He consistently checked in with cadets who were struggling and used what he learned during his time as a cadet to help others be their best.”

Funds raised will be used to create a gift for Duran’s family, create a memorial case to be built at the squadron and go towards the CS-29 support fund.

Lopez was a talented singer who recently appeared on the Spanish musical competition “Tengo Talento, Mucho Talento.”

He began singing as a teenager, inspired by his dad, who also loved to sing and bought him a karaoke machine. He was multi-faceted, able to sing everything from opera and R&B to reggaeton and mariachi.

He won second and third place at La Gran Plaza’s annual singing contest.

Lopez’ GoFundMe was created by Edalia Aguilar to help with funeral expenses.

“Felipe, lovingly known as Pancho, graduated from Cleburne High School in 2018,” Aguilar said. “Felipe was as talented as he was kind. He played soccer and ran cross country for CHS, and was pursuing his lifelong dream of a career in music. 

“In 2020, Felipe competed in several episodes of ‘Tengo Talento, Mucho Talento,’ a popular Spanish singing competition TV show. 

“Felipe is deeply loved and missed by his family, his friends and everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him.”

Lopez’ cross country coach, Alicia Johnson, said he was an amazing human being with a beautiful soul.

“Felipe was on the varsity cross country team, and qualified for regionals individually and helped lead his team to qualifying for regionals as a team,” she said. “He was naturally gifted in all he did and was an exceptionally gifted runner.

To donate, visit Duran’s page at gofund.me/578d03d0 or Lopez’ page at gofund.me/741b4554.

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