Clay Yarber was on Continental Connection Flight 3407, a decorated Marine who had twice survived helicopter crashes in Vietnam but was left with a fear of flying so deep he often preferred to drive, even cross country. But Thursday, Mr. Yarber, 62, had boarded a flight from California, connecting through Newark, to visit a friend in the Buffalo area.
He had received two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam.
“He was a really great father,” said Michele Keratsis, his last wife.
She said that around the time of the Tet offensive in 1968, Mr. Yarber was twice in helicopters that were shot down, but that in each instance he basically walked away from the crash.
“That is one of the bitter ironies of all this for us,” she said. “He was not happy to get on a plane at anytime.”
A stepson, Richard Curtis, said he was so inspired by Mr. Yarber he joined the Marine Corps, following in his footsteps. “He raised me after my father was killed by a drunk driver when I was 13,” Mr. Curtis said. “I called him Dad.”
Comment: The opposite of the soft landing on the Hudson