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Pilots share bittersweet breakfast, remember pals who crashed above North Collins

A week after the triple-fatal plane crash in North Collins, a close-knit group of pilots who lost two of their best friends and flying buddies got together for their usual Sunday morning breakfast.

There were seven who on Sunday went to ZJ’s Family Restaurant in Hamburg for a bittersweet meal, as they recalled veteran pilots Richard Walker of Eden, his wife Kathleen, and pilot Paul Rosiek of Hamburg, who perished in the Sept. 25 crash after Walker and Rosiek’s planes collided midair just a few minutes after takeoff.

The group included pilot Bill Drew and his wife, and three other pilots who were flying their planes with Walker and Rosiek, on an outing from the Hamburg Airport to St. Mary’s, Pa., when the crash occurred.

The group knows the risk that comes with the thrill of soaring above the Earth.

“We understand what the situation is,” Bill Drew said. “It’s part of flying. We knew the risks going in, and they’re still the same risks. Nothing has changed.”

Pilots Paul Rosiek, left, and Richard Walker chat in an undated photo. Rosiek, of Hamburg, and Walker, of Eden, along with Walker’s wife, Kathleen, died when their planes collided mid-air above North Collins on Sept. 25, 2016. (Courtesy of James Cavanaugh)

Pilots Paul Rosiek, left, and Richard Walker chat in an undated photo. Rosiek, of Hamburg, and Walker, of Eden, along with Walker’s wife, Kathleen, died when their planes collided midair above North Collins on Sept. 25, 2016. (Courtesy of James Cavanaugh)

They had planned to fly somewhere as a pack Sunday before breakfast. But the weather was not ideal. And their hearts were broken, Drew said.

Instead, they all ate something at ZJ’s that Rich Walker had loved - Polish sausage - in honor of him. They knew he did not like eggs.

“We all got Polish sausage in honor of him,” Drew said. “And we ordered a side of bacon and toast.”

The bacon and toast weren’t for the humans.

On past Sundays when they didn’t fly, Rosiek had always ordered a breakfast treat for Piper, his beloved dog, named after his first plane.

“Paul would always take a piece of bacon and toast, and wrap it right in a napkin and give it to his dog,” Drew recalled. “He’d bring his dog with him in his truck and give him some breakfast if we weren’t flying.”

Sunday was no different. After they left ZJ’s, Rosiek’s buddies gave the treat to Piper at Rosiek’s home.

Related: NTSB preliminary report on fatal plane crash above North Collins

Related: 3 killed in midair collision above North Collins

email: krobinson@buffnews.com

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