Air Force Staff Sgt. Daniel N. Fannin's family remembered him Monday as a kind-hearted young man who enjoyed the simple pleasures of camping and fishing, and died serving the country he loved.
Fannin, a Morehead native, was killed Saturday in the crash of an Air Force reconnaissance plane about 100 miles from the Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan. He had turned 30 on April 9.
The U.S. Defense Department said authorities were trying to determine what caused the crash. Officials said that no enemy activity had been reported in the area at the time of the crash.
Daniel Fannin grew up in Morehead and joined the U.S. Air Force shortly after graduating from Rowan County Senior High School in 2001.
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He had lived for several years in Oklahoma with his wife, Sonya Fannin, of Oklahoma City. He was assigned to the Air Force's 552nd Operations Support Squadron at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City.
In addition to his spouse, Fannin is survived by his mother, Sharri Jones of Morehead; his grandparents, Henry and Fern Hamm; two uncles, an aunt, and many relatives and friends.
The family said in a statement that "Daniel always had a smile and kind words, and had a heart of gold.
"He loved his family, his dog, and loved to fish and camp," the family said. "Daniel died honorably serving his country so that we may continue to enjoy the freedoms that we take for granted.
"He died just as he lived — serving God and others. We are blessed to have known and loved Daniel."
Family members said the statement would be their only comment, and they asked that the public and media respect their privacy during their period of grief and mourning.
Fannin was one of four crewmen killed when the Air Force MC-12 Liberty reconnaissance plane went down Saturday in Afghanistan's Zabul province, the Defense Department said.
The others were Capt. Reid Nishizuka, 30, of Kailua, Hawaii; Capt. Brandon Cyr, 28, of Woodbridge, Va., and Staff Sgt. Richard A. Dickson, 24, of Rancho Cordova, Calif.
It was not immediately known how long Fannin had been in Afghanistan, where he was a member of the 361st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron at Kandahar Air Base.
Fannin, a 12-year Air Force veteran, was an airborne sensor operator and a qualified Air Force air surveillance instructor who had served with distinction at Tinker Air Force Base, according to base spokesman Darren Heusel. Fannin had served three previous tours, and had worked as an air surveillance technician aboard the Air Force's highly sophisticated E-3 AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft, Heusel said.
The MC-12 is a relatively small twin-engine, turboprop plane that resembles a civilian executive aircraft. But the plane is packed with electronic and infrared gear, as well as satellite communications and data links, allowing it to perform aerial reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence-gathering work in support of troops on the ground.