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Friends Remember Sunnyvale Flight Instructor Who Died in Chopper Crash

SUNNYVALE (KPIX) -- Wayne Prodger lived life to the fullest and had a passion for riding motorcycles and flying helicopters.

That's how his friends said Friday that they want him remembered.

The 62-year-old Sunnyvale man died in a helicopter crash at the Hayward Executive Airport Monday afternoon.

His friends also said that Prodger loved his wife deeply.

"They were high school sweethearts," said friend Lauren Yamasaki-Cramer. "I can't imagine when you've been with somebody as long as they have what it's like to lose your partner."

Just a few weeks ago, Prodger and his wife Jody Prodger, celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary.

She did not know immediately on Monday that her husband had been killed in the crash, according to Yamasaki-Cramer.

Proffer, a flight instructor, died while teaching a student how to fly.

"It was his own business and he was very proud of it," said friend Bill Thigpen.

He and Yamasaki-Cramer met Prodger through the San Jose chapter of the Harley Owners Group. They said Prodger was supposed to be named the HOG's newest director on Wednesday.

Both believe that Prodger likely had no control over whatever happened Monday.

"He was an absolutely good flight instructor, he was very precise," Thigpen said. "He was always safe even when we were riding fast he was riding safe and didn't put anybody at risk."

"He had a student who didn't pass the test that he had given him and (Prodger's) comment was, 'Well, I won't be flying tomorrow,' so I know that he had certain criteria," Yamasaki-Cramer said.

It will likely be months before investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board figure out what went wrong during Prodger's last flight. Witnesses inside the air traffic control tower saw the chopper hovering before it fell to the ground and crashed on its side.

The student survived, but their condition is unknown.

"I want him to be remembered as somebody who lived life to its fullest, that enjoyed every minute of life," Thigpen said.

On Prodger and his wife's 40th anniversary in 2017, Prodger wrote on his Facebook page that they were "still lovers and best friends."

"I've been feeling like he's probably saying, 'Thank you for taking care of my family,' because I think he'd probably be most concerned about his wife," Yamasaki-Cramer said.

Employees of Harley-Davidson in San Jose plan to dedicate their monthly Bike Ride to Prodger.



Thursday, July 25, 6 PM -- 9 PM

This month's Bike Night will be in honor of Wayne Prodger, San Jose HOG's former activities director

San Jose Harley-Davidson will be taking donations to help offset any costs the Prodger family are faced with at this time.

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