LIBERTY COUNTY, Texas - Two men are dead after a single engine airplane crashed into the Trinity River Saturday evening.
According to the Liberty County Sheriff's Office, the men were identified as 26-year-old Patrick Joseph Falterman from Cleveland, Texas who piloted the airplane.
He was accompanied by his friend, 25-year-old Zach Esters who was visiting from Lafayette, Louisiana.
Authorities say the airplane stalled before it crashed in the river about a quarter mile from Highway 105.
Deputies, along with other first responders and volunteer fire departments, rushed to the site of the crash. When they arrived, they found the plane upside down in the river.
Witnesses said they saw the plane flying rather low before it went nose first into the river around 7 p.m.
"The plane apparently tried to do a barrel roll," said Capt. Ken DeFoor of the Liberty County Sheriff's Office. "It came down nose first, hit the Trinity River and flipped over on it's back."
Falterman comes from an aviation family; his mother is a flight instructor and his father is a pilot for Southwest Airlines, according to friends.
Those who know him say Falterman loved flying and adventure. "A free spirit is the best word I can say when it comes to him," said Morgan Galland, who knew Falterman from Tarkington High School. "He literally passed away doing what he loved."
Falterman was developing a growing online presence through his website, hitchtheworld.com, where he chronicled his trips traveling through South and Central America.
People all over the world followed his adventures on his blog and social media.
"He hitchhiked and traveled the world," said Galland. "He basically lived an awesome life."
Falterman's friends are hosting a candlelight vigil in his memory at Cleveland Municipal Airport on Sunday at 8 p.m. The event is open to the public, but relatives have asked members of the media to stay away.
Liberty County deputies are keeping a close watch on the crash site because the damaged aircraft remains in the water. Investigators say it will be removed at a later date.
"He got to see and do many things that none of us are ever going to be able to do," says Galland. "He touched many lives."
Friends of Esters are also leaving condolences on his Facebook page. Esters apparently graduated from Ovey Comeaux High School in Lafayette, La. and studied at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Friends have commented on his page saying he was a great person who was always happy, others said it didn't seem real and he was a good guy, taken too soon.
An official from the FAA conducted the preliminary investigation and an autopsy has been ordered.
The airplane will be moved from the river at a later date.