HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- A U.S. Army Captain, who was killed when an Ethiopian Airlines aircraft crashed shortly after take off, has ties to Central Virginia. Cpt. Antoine Lewis attended St. Paul's Baptist Church in 2011 while he was briefly stationed in Central Virginia, according to the church.
“I was just shocked; my heart broke because he was just so full of life," said LaDonne Lankster, who supported a small group Cpt. Lewis led during his time at the church.
The plane, en route to Nairobi, Kenya, lost contact at 08:44 a.m. local time, six minutes after taking off from Bole International Airport in the Ethiopian capital.
Ethiopian authorities are leading the investigation into the crash, assisted by the U.S., Kenya, and others.
Cpt. Lewis' family said he was traveling to Africa on a missionary trip with his current church. Cpt. Lewis grew up near Chicago, and CBS 6's sister station WGN spoke with Cpt. Lewis' family there.
"He was a beautiful person. He would be the friend you want to have, he’d be the son you want to have," said Antoinette Lewis, his mother. "He left a legacy of love; a legacy of love."
Lankster said Cpt. Lewis began leading a small group at St. Paul's shortly after arriving in Central Virginia. The group's mission was to help immigrant families settle in the area. Lankster, who has worked at St. Paul's for more than a decade, said Cpt. Lewis' commitment to helping others was clear.
"He really had a heart for people from all countries," she said. "He made the step to get involved and do more than just sit in his pew, stand up and clap or give an offering. He gave of himself and his time."
"He made a difference, and he made an impact on this church and in the lives of so many. Because in the little time he had here, he gave it away to others."
Cpt. Lewis had a distinguished career in the U.S. Army that began in 1997, according to military officials. He was commissioned as a logistics officer in 2010, according to officials. Cpt. Lewis earned numerous awards for his service, which included deployments to combat zones like Afghanistan.
"Capt. Lewis was one of our finest," said Lt. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, U.S. Army North Commander. "Antoine was selected from his peers to serve as a liaison to his nation, and we mourn this tragic loss. Our deepest condolences and prayers are with his family during this time."
Family members said Cpt. Lewis is survived by his wife and 15-year old son. He was 40 years old.