WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The Westfield community continues to mourn the loss of a Barnes Air National Guard pilot, and many people have spoken with 22News about how they’ve been affected by the loss.
The Westfield community mourns the loss of Lt. Col. Morris “Moose” Fontenot, a pilot of the 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes. On his way to New Orleans, he called for an in-flight emergency, lost contact, and crashed. His plane was found in Deerfield, Virginia, and crews discovered his seat did not eject.
Richard Oleksak joined the 104th in 1954 and is now a part of the alumni association. He says Fontenot’s death affects the 104th heritage. Oleksak told 22News, “It’s like losing one of our brothers. we’re a 12-hundred outfit group so it hit deep, it hit deep.”
Lt. Col. Fontenot’s death is the 12th death of a pilot from the Barnes Air National Guard Base. Some people in Westfield are taking it very close to their hearts.
Laura Adoretti told 22News, “My nephew is with the Army National Guard here at Barnes. And we always know that when they go away, we’re not so sure that they’re always gonna come back.”
One Westfield resident told 22News that he lives near the runway of Barnes where the planes take off and land. Though the noise may be annoying to some, to him, it’s a comfort.
“When you hear it, I think it’s kind of nice to know that they’re here in your own backyard and they’re here to protect our country,” says Dan Kelly. “And I think that what they do is just great.”
“I grew up here and they’ve always been a part of our every day life,” says Adoretti. “We just love hearing the planes over head. And I just feel really bad for his family and for his group at the Air National Guard.”
Many members of the community told 22News they extend their thoughts and prayers to the family and to the Barnes team.