CENTRAL, LA (WAFB) - A Marine from metro Baton Rouge is among four Marines killed in Tuesday's helicopter crash in California, his family confirms. The Marine Corps later confirmed this on Thursday, April 5.
Lance Cpl. Taylor Conrad was a 2012 graduate of Central High School and the father of a newborn. The Marines says Conrad was a CH-35 helicopter crew chief assigned to HMH-465. He joined the Marine Corps in May of 2016.
"The loss of our Marines weighs heavy on our hearts," said Maj. Gen. Mark Wise, commanding general of 3rd MAW. "Our priority is to provide support for our families and HMH-465 during this critical time."
The release from the Marines says the helicopter left the Strategic Expeditionary Landing Field at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California to do squadron training involving landings in unimproved zones. The accidents happened about 15 miles west of El Centro. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.
The other Marines killed in the incident were Capt. Samuel A. Schultz, 28, of Valley, Pennsylvania, First Lt. Samuel D. Phillips, 27, of Pinehurst, North Carolina, and Gunnery St. Richard Holley, 33, of Dayton, Ohio.
Coaches and former teammates describe Conrad as a standout football and student with a big heart, especially for kids with special needs.
RELATED: 4 killed in Marine helicopter crash
Conrad told Central High School Athletic Director and head football coach Sid Edwards that he had aspirations of being a special education teacher but wanted to serve his country first.
Edwards said Conrad had a special affection for those with special needs. Conrad even cared for the coach's own son who has autism. But Edwards says that just scratches the surface.
"His love for those who need the most love is something I'll never forget," Edwards said.
Conrad began working with special needs children when he was just 15. He was in a program called "Best Buddies" that paired up regular education students with special education students.
During the 2011-12 school year, Conrad served as an escort to a special needs student nominated on the homecoming court.
Edwards said he wasn't surprised when Conrad joined the Marines, explaining that Conrad's father had also served and that military service was indicative of his character.
Since graduating in 2012, Conrad would periodically return back to Central High School. He visited his alma mater just two months ago. He liked to visit with former football teammates and coaches but always migrated to the special education classroom.
"Many of our guys come back and they just come to myself and the staff. But not him, he was woven into the fabric of this school so deep, every square inch, every teacher, every administrator," Edwards said. "He had to make sure he touched everyone when he got here."