One pilot who died in a midair plane crash earlier this month has been identified as a San Ramon Valley High School alumnus who grew up in Alamo.
Stuart Camenson, 32, was practicing liftoffs and touchdowns at the Watsonville Municipal Airport near Santa Cruz on Aug. 18 when he was killed in a collision with a second plane carrying a couple who also died on the scene. They were identified as Carl Kruppa, 75, and Nannette Plett-Kruppa, 67, both residents of Winston.
News of the crash was first reported to city officials in Watsonville just before 3 p.m. on Aug. 18, with an investigation underway as of 3:37 p.m. that day, according to social media. The victims were identified, and their families notified, on Aug. 19.
"On Thursday, August 18, 2022, Stuart was practicing maneuvers, working on extra pilot certification, performing loops, touchdowns and takeoffs," Camenson's parents and siblings said in a statement.
"He had completed four perfectly. On the fifth on his approach to landing, Stuart announced his pattern and intentions, when a plane came behind him approaching the airport at a very high speed," they said. "Stuart announced that the larger plane was approaching too fast when the plane behind him, a Cessna 340, hit his smaller Cessna 152, ripping the wing off Stuart's smaller plane, making a safe landing impossible."
The cause of the midair collision is currently under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The crash occurred just nine days after Camenson's 32nd birthday.
He was born on Aug. 9, 1990 at San Ramon Regional Medical Center -- several months after the hospital opened that February -- to Alamo locals Lori and Steve Camenson. The two were both lifelong Alamo residents who wanted to raise their family close to friends and family.
"Stuart loved any spot in the valley, or in the world, that involved nature and friends," Camenson's family said. "It was a part of Stuart's nature that he loved to learn; anything and everything, hands on or reading books."
Camenson was an alumnus of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, having attended Rancho Romero Elementary, Stone Valley Middle and San Ramon Valley High schools.
"In middle school, when being cool was all that mattered, Stuart continued to excel academically, but his core teacher Jim Purcell was so much fun in the classroom that Stuart began to realize it was great to be authentic and show his true self to his friends, " Camenson's family said. "And he felt 'cool' presenting his awesome self."
Camenson's family pointed to his close relationships with a number of teachers growing up as setting the stage for him to flourish as the "renaissance man" he grew into as an adult. He lived in Santa Cruz at the time of his death, after graduating from the University of Santa Cruz with three bachelor's degrees -- in chemistry, mathematics and earth science. He was studying art, improv, voice and music at Cabrillo College this year.
"He was a lifelong learner and sought out learning and improving himself, which he did joyfully each and every day of his life," Camenson's family said.
Despite the educators and schools who helped Camenson feed his hunger for education in a wide range of subjects, his family emphasized that this was a fundamental part of his character and that he had the motivation to explore his interests on his own.
"He could accomplish anything he set his mind to learn to do," Camenson's family said. "He did so much and loved every minute of it. He loved reading, yoga, cooking, brewing beer, roasting and creating his own coffee blends, traveling, surfing, scuba, hiking, exploring underground caves, jewelry making, painting, singing, acting, skateboarding, playing music ... we could go on and on. He played the piano, clarinet, saxophone, guitar, banjo, and mandolin. Playing and creating music brought him peace."
Camenson's interest in music resulted in becoming a composer and DJ, fusing a range of styles such as monastery chants and inspirational songs with his own compositions.
Despite being ambitious and always seeking to learn more about new things, Camenson's family said he was also someone who appreciated the simple yet important things in life, especially close relationships.
"The essence of Stuart is that he desired nothing but friendship and love from others," Camenson's family said. "He freely shared all of his gifts with anyone."
And despite his soft side, Camenson's family emphasized that his own friendships and love for others could manifest in a protective attitude when necessary.
"He would fiercely stand up for his beliefs and for the needs of others," Camenson's family said. "He had the ferocity of a lion when he needed to be strong, but most often showed his soft gentle heart of a cub and was very compassionate and loving and gentle. He was so kind and expressed his kindness and gratitude every chance he got."
Camenson's enthusiasm for exploring the world from all angles led him to begin learning to fly in 2017, making him the first pilot in the family. He went on to get his pilot's license in 2020, which he used primarily for short trips in the Santa Cruz area.
"Stuart had recently taken his little sister, Jenna, up to include her in one of his last flights," Camenson's family said. "Jenna was in awe of what Stuart was able to accomplish with his determination and hard work."
Camenson's enthusiasm for life, and capacity for sharing it with others, makes his loss all the more immense according to his family.
"He was a once in a lifetime son, brother and friend," Camenson's family said. "His loss will be deeply felt by an immense community who loved him dearly and Stuart fully reciprocated that love. His loss will be deeply felt by everyone's life that he touched."
The family is asking community members to honor Camenson's life "by performing kind acts, speaking kind words and loving each other." A GoFundMe campaign, "In Memoriam of Stuart Camenson", to raise money for a memorial in honor of him at the Watsonville Municipal Airport was started on Aug. 28.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story contained incorrect information from SRVUSD about Stuart Camenson's graduation. Camenson's mother clarified that he graduated from San Ramon Valley High School with honors. Embarcadero Media regrets the error.