Russ Francis, a former NFL athlete who competed at WrestleMania 2, passed away in a plane crash at the age of 70 on October 1, 2023, CNN reports.
Francis and AOPA Air Safety Institute Vice President Richard McSpadden were flying a Cessna 177 out of Lake Placid Airport when the aircraft “experienced an emergency after takeoff.”
While the aircraft attempted to return to the airport, it crashed into a ravine near the airport. Both Francis and McSpadden were killed.
Francis died in Upstate New York alongside aviation safety expert McSpadden when their Cessna Cardinal crashed near the runway of the Lake Placid Airport.
Francis’ father was a professional wrestler and promoter in Hawaii per PWInsider, who eventually sold his territory to Peter Maivia. Russ competed in NWA Hawaii and held the NWA Hawaii Tag Team Championship with his brother Billy Roy in 1978. He played football in the NFL for the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers from 1975 through 1988.
Francis briefly competed in the AWA after retiring from his football career and was part of the WrestleMania 2 battle royal along with a number of other NFL players. They competed in the ring in 1987, teaming up with Jimmy Snuka.
On behalf of eWn, we send our condolences to the family, friends, and fans of Mr. Francis.
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Former NFL athlete Russ Francis, who competed at WrestleMania 2, tragically passed away in a plane crash at the age of 70 on October 1, 2023. The incident occurred when Francis and Richard McSpadden, Vice President of the AOPA Air Safety Institute, were flying a Cessna 177 out of Lake Placid Airport.
According to reports, the aircraft experienced an emergency shortly after takeoff. Despite their efforts to return to the airport, the plane crashed into a ravine near the runway, resulting in the deaths of both Francis and McSpadden.
Russ Francis had a unique background, as his father was a professional wrestler and promoter in Hawaii. He eventually sold his territory to Peter Maivia. Russ himself competed in NWA Hawaii and even held the NWA Hawaii Tag Team Championship with his brother Billy Roy in 1978. After his wrestling career, Francis transitioned to football and played in the NFL for the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers from 1975 to 1988.
Following his retirement from football, Francis briefly returned to wrestling and joined the AWA. He also participated in the WrestleMania 2 battle royal in 1987, where he teamed up with Jimmy Snuka and other NFL players.
The news of Russ Francis’ passing has deeply saddened the wrestling community and fans alike. On behalf of eWn, our condolences go out to his family, friends, and fans during this difficult time.
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