PIKEVILLE, TN (WRCB) - A Bledsoe County doctor was killed in a plane crash while visiting family in Florida. Authorities say 59-year-old Dr. Harold MacManus' was headed back to Tennessee. The small plane he was flying went down 10 miles from take off in Tampa Sunday night.
The Pikeville community is mourning the loss one of its most loved members. Community leaders say Dr. Harold MacManus' wife made calls Monday night to notify them of his passing. News spread quickly Tuesday. Everyone Channel 3 talked to knew him and had a story about how he either helped someone in need or made them laugh.
"Everybody knew the doctor wearing the cowboy hat," longtime friend and colleague Travis Smith said.
Known as "Dr. Mac," friends, colleagues and former patients say the news of the deadly crash is a big blow to their small community.
"One of those ones you just have the breath knocked out of you because you realize everything he does and you think, what do I do now," Bledsoe County Mayor Bobby Collier said.
They say he's had his flying license for years, but just bought the plane a few weeks ago.
"He was all excited about his plane. You could tell he was just thrilled," Collier said.
His sister told the NBC station in Tampa he was excited that he'd be able to visit his family in Florida more.
"I've never seen him honestly as happy as I've seen him lately since he got that airplane," sister Dr. Susan MacManus said.
He was flying out of Tampa after a week-long visit when the plane went down, ending his life.
"Just hard to believe he wouldn't be with us anymore," Smith said.
But, as the Pikeville community mourns the loss, they can't help but smile thinking about all of his jokes.
"He had one of those extraordinary personalities," Collier said.
"He was always a big cut up," former patient Jarrod Thurman said.
Former patient Jarrod Thurman says as a kid, he'd even make him laugh when he was sick.
"He'd go, you've got ninja turtles in your ear," Thurman said.
Dr. Mac had his own family practice for years, but in recent years had moved to doing contract work for several Bledsoe County facilities-- including the state and county jails. Travis Smith says when he owned a home for needy children, Dr. Mac gave the kids free check-ups and donated food from his cattle farm.
"He really didn't want anybody to know about it. This is really the first time I've talked about it," Smith said.
They say he always went the extra mile to help and didn't want the recognition.
"He had a heart for people, especially people who are underprivileged," Smith said.
He'd chop and deliver them firewood in the winter and buy and install air conditioners for those who needed it in the summer.
"Once you became his friend, then you were his friend he looked after and took care of," Collier said.
Dr. MacManus is a U.S. Navy veteran and was a baseball pitcher at Duke University. Funeral arraignments are pending. He leaves behind a wife, two children, and grandchildren, including one on the way.