Family, Friends Remember Minooka Pilot Killed in Crash
Scott Tezak, 23, was killed when his single-engine plane went down in Florida on Friday night. His family describes him as a man who lived life to the fullest.
Scott Tezak of Minooka liked to live his life on the edge.
“He definitely enjoyed life,” said his father, Tom Tezak. “He was a skydiver, he was a pilot, he loved motorcycles, he traveled a lot. He knew how to enjoy life.”
That life was tragically cut short around 11:30 p.m. Friday when the single-engine Czech Sport plane Scott was flying crashed near Spring Hill, Florida. His father said Tezak had been ferrying the plane down to Florida for a friend and client, and was on his way back home when something went wrong.
Hernando County, Florida sheriff’s deputies found the 23-year-old pilot, of the 500 block of Hannigan Drive, dead by the side of a road in Spring Hill. His plane had crashed about half a mile away, in a wooded area, sheriff’s deputies said.
Scott’s Minooka family—father Tom, mother Jackie and sister Jill—got the news at 5:30 a.m. Saturday, when local police knocked on their door. Scott’s fiancé, Samantha Gnatz, and their 4-month-old daughter Madelyn also live locally.
Since then, the family has been waiting for answers—the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the crash, and have not determined a cause. Funeral arrangements have not been set, since the FAA has not yet released the body to the family, Tom Tezak said.
Flying, his family members all said, was Scott’s life. According to his mother, Scott was interested in planes from an early age—they have a picture of him at 5 years old, sitting in the cockpit of a commercial airliner. He started flying planes at 18, she said, getting his license through American Flyers.
Tom Tezak said his son was working on his bachelor’s degree in aviation administration at Lewis University in Romeoville. He was a graduate of Minooka High School.
Recently, Scott had been working at the Joliet Regional Airport as a mechanic, his mother said, and offering flight instruction through his private business. He also worked as an instructor for Blue Sky Aero Inc. at the Morris Airport—a tribute to Scott is now on that company’s website.
Cindy Limbach, owner of Blue Sky Aero, said Scott was like a son to her. She met him two years ago, when he offered his services as a flight instructor. She said he was unfailingly optimistic, and always willing to try new things.
“Whatever he tried, he took on with gusto,” Limbach said. “But with all the opportunities he had lately, he would always say, ‘I have to be home, to be with my baby and Sam.’ That was his focus.”
Limbach described Scott as an “exceptional” pilot, and said whatever happened in the air on Friday night, she’s certain it wasn’t pilot error.
“He took it on with great seriousness,” she said of Scott’s flying. “He knows what he’s doing. Whatever tragedy happened, he did everything perfect, I have no doubt.”
Flying wasn’t Scott’s only passion. At age 17, he began skydiving, and fell in love with it. His 24th birthday would have been June 24, and his mother said that’s all he wanted—skydiving tickets.
“He tried to get us to do it, but we said no,” Jackie Tezak laughed. “He was the risk-taker, not us.”
But one member of his family, his 17-year-old sister Jill, was up for it. She said Scott was set to take her skydiving once she turned 18—their parents, she said, wouldn’t let her go before then. Now that trip will never happen.
“My brother was my hero,” Jill Tezak said with tears in her eyes. “I thought he was the coolest person ever since I was little. I know I will live my life to the fullest, because that’s exactly what he did.”
Scott’s father agreed.
“He lived on the edge,” Tom Tezak said. “He knew what he liked, and he was doing exactly what he wanted to do.”
And above all, Scott loved his fiancé and young daughter, his mother said. She said Samantha is a quieter, more reserved person—“She is his opposite, and they balanced out”— and described young Madelyn as a “wonderful little baby girl.”
“Scott will live on through Madelyn for the rest of our days,” she said.
Blue Sky Aero plans a fundraiser for Scott Tezak’s fiancé and daughter sometime later this month. Though plans are not finalized, Cindy Limbach said Blue Sky would offer plane rides in exchange for donations. For more details as they emerge, log onto Blue Sky Aero’s website.