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Man Who Died in Plane Crash Loved Flying, Rock 'n' Roll

March 17, 1994

As investigators searched for the cause of last Friday's plane crash, grief-stricken friends of Greg Leslie, the passenger who died, remembered a sweet-tempered man who loved flying and playing rock 'n' roll.

"He never had a bad thing to say about anybody and, being musicians, we all travel in pretty cynical circles," recalled Kelly Pattrik, Leslie's friend, roommate and fellow band member.

Leslie, guitarist for the Hollywood-based rock band Grind, was killed Friday evening when the Piper 28 he was riding in struck a house near the intersection of Barrington and National boulevards and burst into flames.

The 35-year-old Cleveland native, who was divorced and had no children, was a part-time free-lance airplane mechanic. He worked primarily on planes belonging to Stuart Niemi, owner of Silver Wing Aviation Inc., an aircraft dealer based at Santa Monica Airport.

In the hours before his death, he was helping David Thompson, a friend and the pilot of the plane that crashed, work on the Piper. Once it was running to their satisfaction, Thompson, an experienced pilot and an aviation mechanic for Continental Airlines, apparently asked Leslie if he wanted to take a quick spin around the airport to try it out.

"It was one of those things," Niemi speculated. "The guy said, 'Hey, Greg, I'm going to fly this thing around the pattern,' and he said, 'Sure, I could use the relaxation. I've been working all day.' "

A short time later, Leslie, a pilot himself, was dead. Passersby who rushed to the scene of the crash were unable to free the injured and sobbing man from the burning airplane, leaving friends and acquaintances to ponder his final moments.

"You sit here and listen to the accounts of how he died . . . ," said Judi Barker, her voice trailing off. Barker owns the hangar where Thompson stored his plane.

Thompson was released earlier this week from UCLA Medical Center after treatment for a broken leg and second-degree burns on his hands and arms.

In a sad bit of irony, she noted, Leslie's band was going to play in an airport benefit for the families of two men killed in the crash of a small plane in Santa Monica in November.

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